Organic anion transporting polypeptides of the OATP/ SLC21 family: phylogenetic classification as OATP/ SLCO superfamily, new nomenclature and molecular/functional properties

Pflugers Arch. 2004 Feb;447(5):653-65. doi: 10.1007/s00424-003-1168-y. Epub 2003 Oct 25.


The organic anion transporting polypeptides (rodents: Oatps, human: OATPs) form a superfamily of sodium-independent transport systems that mediate the transmembrane transport of a wide range of amphipathic endogenous and exogenous organic compounds. Since the traditional SLC21 gene classification does not permit an unequivocal and species-independent identification of genes and gene products, all Oatps/OATPs are newly classified within the OATP/ SLCO superfamily and subdivided into families (>/=40% amino acid sequence identity), subfamilies (>/=60% amino acid sequence identity) and individual genes and gene products according to their phylogenetic relationships and chronology of identification. Implementation of this new classification and nomenclature system occurs in agreement with the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC). Among 52 members of the OATP/ SLCO superfamily, 36 members have been identified so far in humans, rat and mouse. The latter are clustered within 6 (out of 12) families (OATP1-OATP6) and 13 subfamilies. Oatps/OATPs represent 12 transmembrane domain proteins and contain the superfamily signature D-X-RW-(I,V)-GAWW-X-G-(F,L)-L. Although species divergence, multispecificity and wide tissue distribution are common characteristics of many Oatps/OATPs, some members of the OATP/ SLCO superfamily are highly conserved during evolution, have a high substrate specificity and exhibit unique cellular expression in distinct organs. Hence, while Oatps/OATPs with broad substrate specificity appear to play an important role in the bioavailability, distribution and excretion of numerous exogenous amphipathic organic anionic compounds, Oatps/OATPs with a narrow spectrum of transport substrates may exhibit more specific physiological functions in distinct organs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anions / metabolism
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Humans
  • Multigene Family / physiology
  • Organic Anion Transporters / genetics*
  • Organic Anion Transporters / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Terminology as Topic*


  • Anions
  • Organic Anion Transporters