The ATP binding cassette (ABC) superfamily is a large, ubiquitous and diverse group of proteins, most of which mediate transport across biological membranes. ABC transporters have been shown to function not only as ATP-dependent pumps, but also as ion channels and channel regulators. Whilst members of this gene family have been extensively characterised in mammalian and microbial systems, the study of plant ABC transporters is a relatively new field of investigation. Sequences of over 20 plant ABC proteins have been published and include homologues of P-glycoprotein, MRP, PDR5 and organellar transporters. At present, functions have been assigned to a small proportion of these genes and only the MRP subclass has been extensively characterised. This review aims to summarise literature relevant to the study of plant ABC transporters, to review methods of cloning, to discuss the utility of yeast and mammalian systems as models and to speculate on possible roles of uncharacterised ABC transporters in plants.