Function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic ABC proteins in lipid transport

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Mar 21;1733(1):29-52. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2004.12.007. Epub 2004 Dec 31.


ATP binding cassette (ABC) proteins of both eukaryotic and prokaryotic origins are implicated in the transport of lipids. In humans, members of the ABC protein families A, B, C, D and G are mutated in a number of lipid transport and metabolism disorders, such as Tangier disease, Stargardt syndrome, progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis, pseudoxanthoma elasticum, adrenoleukodystrophy or sitosterolemia. Studies employing transfection, overexpression, reconstitution, deletion and inhibition indicate the transbilayer transport of endogenous lipids and their analogs by some of these proteins, modulating lipid transbilayer asymmetry. Other proteins appear to be involved in the exposure of specific lipids on the exoplasmic leaflet, allowing their uptake by acceptors and further transport to specific sites. Additionally, lipid transport by ABC proteins is currently being studied in non-human eukaryotes, e.g. in sea urchin, trypanosomatides, arabidopsis and yeast, as well as in prokaryotes such as Escherichia coli and Lactococcus lactis. Here, we review current information about the (putative) role of both pro- and eukaryotic ABC proteins in the various phenomena associated with lipid transport. Besides providing a better understanding of phenomena like lipid metabolism, circulation, multidrug resistance, hormonal processes, fertilization, vision and signalling, studies on pro- and eukaryotic ABC proteins might eventually enable us to put a name on some of the proteins mediating transbilayer lipid transport in various membranes of cells and organelles. It must be emphasized, however, that there are still many uncertainties concerning the functions and mechanisms of ABC proteins interacting with lipids. In particular, further purification and reconstitution experiments with an unambiguous role of ATP hydrolysis are needed to demonstrate a clear involvement of ABC proteins in lipid transbilayer asymmetry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Models, Biological


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Bacterial Proteins