Overview: ABC transporters and human disease

J Bioenerg Biomembr. 2001 Dec;33(6):453-8. doi: 10.1023/a:1012866803188.


ABC transporters are found in all known organisms, and approximately 1,100 different transporters belonging to this family have been described in the literature. The family is defined by homology within the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) region, which extends outside of the more typical Walker motifs found in all ATP-binding proteins. Most family members also contain transmembrane domains involved in recognition of substrates, which are transported across, into, and out of cell membranes, but some members utilize ABCs as engines to regulate ion channels. There are approximately 50 known ABC transporters in the human, and there are currently 13 genetic diseases associated with defects in 14 of these transporters. The most common genetic disease conditions include cystic fibrosis, Stargardt disease, age-related macular degeneration, adrenoleukodystrophy, Tangier disease, Dubin-Johnson syndrome and progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis. At least 8 members of this family are involved in the transport of a variety of amphipathic compounds, including anticancer drugs, and some appear to contribute to the resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / physiology*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / genetics
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / genetics
  • Immune System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters