Uptake or extrusion: crystal structures of full ABC transporters suggest a common mechanism

Mol Microbiol. 2007 Jul;65(2):250-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.05792.x. Epub 2007 Jun 18.


ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters are integral membrane proteins that move diverse substrates across cellular membranes. ABC importers catalyse the uptake of essential nutrients from the environment, whereas ABC exporters facilitate the extrusion of various compounds, including drugs and antibiotics, from the cytoplasm. How ABC transporters couple ATP hydrolysis to the transport reaction has long remained unclear. The recent crystal structures of four complete ABC transporters suggest that a key step of the molecular mechanism is conserved in importers and exporters. Whereas binding of ATP promotes an outward-facing conformation, the release of the hydrolysis products ADP and phosphate promotes an inward-facing conformation. This basic scheme can in principle explain ATP-driven drug export and binding protein-dependent nutrient uptake.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / chemistry*
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Protein Conformation


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters