The recent advancements in genome sequencing make it possible for the comparative analyses of essential cellular processes like transport in organisms across the three domains of life. Membrane transporters play crucial roles in fundamental cellular processes and functions in prokaryotic systems. Between 3 and 16% of open reading frames in prokaryotic genomes were predicted to encode membrane transport proteins, emphasizing the importance of transporters in their lifestyles. Hierarchical clustering of phylogenetic profiles of transporter families, which are derived from the presence or absence of a certain transporter family, showed distinct clustering patterns for obligate intracellular organisms, plant/soil-associated microbes and autotrophs. Obligate intracellular organisms possess the fewest types and number of transporters presumably due to their relatively stable living environment, while plant/soil-associated organisms generally encode the largest variety and number of transporters. A group of autotrophs are clustered together largely due to their absence of transporters for carbohydrate and organic nutrients and the presence of transporters for inorganic nutrients. Inside of each group, organisms are further clustered by their phylogenetic properties. These findings strongly suggest the correlation of transporter profiles to both evolutionary history and the overall physiology and lifestyles of the organisms.
(c) 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel.