We have undertaken the inventory and assembly of the typical subunits of the ABC transporters encoded by the complete genome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. These subunits, i.e. the nucleotide binding domains (NBDs), the membrane-spanning domains (MSDs) and the substrate binding proteins (SBPs), were identified on the basis of their characteristic stretches of amino acids and/or conserved structure. A total of 45 NBDs present in 38 proteins, of 47 MSDs present in 44 proteins and of 15 SBPs were found to be encoded by M. tuberculosis. Analysis of transcriptional clusters and searches of homology between the identified subunits of the transporters and proteins characterized in other organisms allowed the reconstitution of at least 26 complete (including at least one NBD and one MSD) and 11 incomplete ABC transporters. Sixteen of them were unambiguously classified as importers whereas 21 were presumed to be exporters. By searches of homology with already known transporters from other organisms, potential substrates (peptides, macrolides, carbohydrates, multidrugs, antibiotics, iron, anions) could be attributed to 30 of the ABC transporters identified in M. tuberculosis. The ABC transporters have been further classified in nine different sub-families according to a tree obtained from the clustering of their NBDs. Contrary to Escherichia coli and similarly to Bacillus subtilis, there is an equal representation of extruders and importers. Many exporters were found to be potentially implicated in the transport of drugs, probably contributing to the resistance of M. tuberculosis to many antibiotics. Interestingly, a transporter (absent in E. coli and in B. subtilis) potentially implicated in the export of a factor required for the bacterial attachment to the eukaryotic host cells was also identified. In comparison to E. coli and B. subtilis, there is an under-representation of the importers (with the exception of the phosphate importers) in M. tuberculosis. This may reflect the capacity of this bacterium to synthesize many essential compounds and to grow in the presence of few external nutrients. The genes encoding the ABC transporters occupy about 2.5% of the genome of M. tuberculosis.