Separate proteins for proton-linked transport of D-xylose, L-arabinose, D-galactose, L-rhamnose and L-fucose into Escherichia coli are being studied. By cloning and sequencing the appropriate genes, the amino acid sequences of proteins for D-xylose/H+ symport (XylE), L-arabinose/H+ symport (AraE), and part of the protein for D-galactose/H+ symport (GalP) have been determined. These are homologous, with at least 28% identical amino acid residues conserved in the aligned sequences, although their primary sequences are not similar to those of other E. coli transport proteins for lactose, melibiose, or D-glucose. However, they are equally homologous to the passive D-glucose transport proteins from yeast, rat brain, rat adipocytes, human erythrocytes, human liver, and a human hepatoma cell line. The substrate specificity of GalP from E. coli is similar to that of the mammalian glucose transporters. Furthermore, the activities of GalP, AraE and the mammalian glucose transporters are all inhibited by cytochalasin B and N-ethylmaleimide. Conserved residues in the aligned sequences of the bacterial and mammalian transporters are identified, and the possible roles of some in sugar binding, cation binding, cytochalasin binding, and reaction with N-ethylmaleimide are discussed. Each protein is independently predicted to form 12 hydrophobic, membrane-spanning alpha-helices with a central hydrophilic segment, also comprised of alpha-helix. This unifying structural model of the sugar transporters shares features with other ion-linked transport proteins for citrate or tetracycline.