A comparative analysis of ABC transporters in complete microbial genomes

Genome Res. 1998 Oct;8(10):1048-59. doi: 10.1101/gr.8.10.1048.


The ABC transporter is a major class of cellular translocation machinery in all bacterial species encoded in the largest set of paralogous genes. The operon structure is frequently found for the genes of three molecular components: the ATP-binding protein, the membrane protein, and the substrate-binding protein. Here, we developed an "ortholog group table" by comparison and classification of known and putative ABC transporters in the complete genomes of seven microorganisms. Our procedure was to first search and classify the most conserved ATP-binding protein components by the sequence similarity and then to classify the entire transporter units by examining the similarity of the other components and the conservation of the operon structure. The resulting 25 ortholog groups of ABC transporters were well correlated with known functions. Through the analysis, we could assign substrate specificity to hypothetical transporters, predict additional transporter operons, and identify novel types of putative transporters. The ortholog group table was also used as a reference data set for functional assignment in four additional genomes. In general, the ABC transporter operons were strongly conserved despite the extensive shuffling of gene locations in bacterial evolution. In Synechocystis, however, the tendency of forming operons was clearly diminished. Our result suggests that the ancestral ABC transporter operons may have arisen early in evolution before the speciation of bacteria and archaea.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics*
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / physiology
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Archaea / physiology
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics
  • Cyanobacteria / physiology
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / genetics
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / physiology
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / genetics
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family
  • Operon
  • Sequence Alignment


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters