The ABCG family of membrane-associated transporters: you don't have to be big to be mighty

Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Dec;164(7):1767-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01177.x.


Along with many other mammalian ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, members of the ABCG group are involved in the regulated transport of hydrophobic compounds across cellular membranes. In humans, five ABCG family members have been identified, encoding proteins ranging from 638 to 678 amino acids in length. All five have been the subject of intensive investigation to better understand their physiological roles, expression patterns, interactions with substrates and inhibitors, and regulation at both the transcript and protein level. The principal substrates for at least four of the ABCG proteins are endogenous and dietary lipids, with ABCG1 implicated in particular in the export of cholesterol, and ABCG5 and G8 forming a functional heterodimer responsible for plant sterol elimination from the body. ABCG2 has a much broader substrate specificity and its ability to transport numerous diverse pharmaceuticals has implications for the absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion and toxicity (ADMETOx) profile of these compounds. ABCG2 is one of at least three so-called multidrug resistant ABC transporters expressed in humans, and its activity is associated with decreased efficacy of anti-cancer agents in several carcinomas. In addition to its role in cancer, ABCG2 also plays a role in the normal physiological transport of urate and haem, the implications of which are described. We summarize here data on all five human ABCG transporters and provide a current perspective on their roles in human health and disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Tissue Distribution


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters