The solute carrier families have a remarkably long evolutionary history with the majority of the human families present before divergence of Bilaterian species

Mol Biol Evol. 2011 Apr;28(4):1531-41. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq350. Epub 2010 Dec 24.


The Solute Carriers (SLCs) are membrane proteins that regulate transport of many types of substances over the cell membrane. The SLCs are found in at least 46 gene families in the human genome. Here, we performed the first evolutionary analysis of the entire SLC family based on whole genome sequences. We systematically mined and analyzed the genomes of 17 species to identify SLC genes. In all, we identified 4,813 SLC sequences in these genomes, and we delineated the evolutionary history of each of the subgroups. Moreover, we also identified ten new human sequences not previously classified as SLCs, which most likely belong to the SLC family. We found that 43 of the 46 SLC families found in Homo sapiens were also found in Caenorhabditis elegans, whereas 42 of them were also found in insects. Mammals have a higher number of SLC genes in most families, perhaps reflecting important roles for these in central nervous system functions. This study provides a systematic analysis of the evolutionary history of the SLC families in Eukaryotes showing that the SLC superfamily is ancient with multiple branches that were present before early divergence of Bilateria. The results provide foundation for overall classification of SLC genes and are valuable for annotation and prediction of substrates for the many SLCs that have not been tested in experimental transport assays.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / classification
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Multigene Family
  • Phylogeny


  • Membrane Transport Proteins