Two membranes enclose Gram-negative bacteria-an inner membrane consisting of phospholipid and an outer membrane having an asymmetric structure in which the inner leaflet contains phospholipid and the outer leaflet consists primarily of lipopolysaccharide. The impermeable nature of the outer membrane imposes a need for numerous outer membrane pores and transporters to ferry substances in and out of the cell. These outer membrane proteins have structures distinct from their inner membrane counterparts and most often function without any discernable energy source. In this chapter, we review the structures and functions of four classes of outer membrane protein: General and specific porins, specific transporters, TonB-dependent transporters, and export channels. While not an exhaustive list, these classes exemplify small-molecule transport across the outer membrane and illustrate the diversity of structures and functions found in Gram-negative bacteria.
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