, Volume 249, Issue 4, pp 919–942 | Cite as

The role of ATP-binding cassette transporters in bacterial pathogenicity

  • Victoria G. Lewis
  • Miranda P. Ween
  • Christopher A. McDevitt
Review Article


The ATP-binding cassette transporter superfamily is present in all three domains of life. This ubiquitous class of integral membrane proteins have diverse biological functions, but their fundamental role involves the unidirectional translocation of compounds across cellular membranes in an ATP coupled process. The importance of this class of proteins in eukaryotic systems is well established as typified by their association with genetic diseases and roles in the multi-drug resistance of cancer. In stark contrast, the ABC transporters of prokaryotes have not been exhaustively investigated due to the sheer number of different roles and organisms in which they function. In this review, we examine the breadth of functions associated with microbial ABC transporters in the context of their contribution to bacterial pathogenicity and virulence.


ABC transporter Prokaryote Pathogenicity Virulence Drug resistance Secreted toxin 



ATP-binding cassette








Cytoplasmic membrane


Capsular polysaccharides




di- or tripeptide ABC permeases








Group A Streptococcus


Group B Streptococcus




















Membrane fusion protein


Multi-drug resistance




Nucleotide-binding domains


Natural resistance-associated macrophage protein




Oligosaccharide units


Outer membrane porin


Oligopeptide ABC permeases










Substrate-binding protein












Transporter classification


Transporter classification identification




Transmembrane domain







MPW is supported by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation (Grant #103) and VGL is supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award and Postgraduate Stipend from the Australian Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation. We thank James C. Paton for critical insight and discussions.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria G. Lewis
    • 1
  • Miranda P. Ween
    • 1
  • Christopher A. McDevitt
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Centre for Infectious Diseases, School of Molecular and Biomedical ScienceUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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