Bacterial ATP-driven transporters of transition metals: physiological roles, mechanisms of action, and roles in bacterial virulence

Metallomics. 2011 Nov;3(11):1098-108. doi: 10.1039/c1mt00073j. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


Maintaining adequate intracellular levels of transition metals is fundamental to the survival of all organisms. While all transition metals are toxic at elevated intracellular concentrations, metals such as iron, zinc, copper, and manganese are essential to many cellular functions. In prokaryotes, the concerted action of a battery of membrane-embedded transport proteins controls a delicate balance between sufficient acquisition and overload. Representatives from all major families of transporters participate in this task, including ion-gradient driven systems and ATP-utilizing pumps. P-type ATPases and ABC transporters both utilize the free energy of ATP hydrolysis to drive transport. Each of these very different families of transport proteins has a distinct role in maintaining transition metal homeostasis: P-type ATPases prevent intracellular overloading of both essential and toxic metals through efflux while ABC transporters import solely the essential ones. In the present review we discuss how each system is adapted to perform its specific task from mechanistic and structural perspectives. Despite the mechanistic and structural differences between P-type ATPases and ABC transporters, there is one important commonality: in many clinically relevant bacterial pathogens, transporters of transition metals are essential for virulence. Here we present several such examples and discuss how these may be exploited for future antibacterial drug development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / chemistry
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Vitamin B 12 / metabolism


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Vitamin B 12