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Clin Chem. 2003 Feb;49(2):230-8.

Real-time reverse transcription-PCR expression profiling of the complete human ATP-binding cassette transporter superfamily in various tissues.

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Institute for Clinical Chemistry, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauss-Allee 11, 93042 Regensburg, Germany.



ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters are involved in many physiologic processes, such as lipid transport, sterol homeostasis, immune mechanisms, and drug transport, and cause various human inherited diseases. Thus, the analysis of ABC transporter mRNA expression profiles for basic research, especially in the field of lipid metabolism, for clinical diagnosis, and for monitoring of drug effects is of great interest.


We have developed a rapid, accurate, and highly sensitive real-time reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) method for detection and quantification of all 47 currently known members of the ABC transporter superfamily. Our expression analysis is based on relative quantification using a calibration curve method. With our assay, expression monitoring of a large number of RNA samples in a 384-well format with only 50 ng of total RNA is possible.


In contrast to previous expression analyses of single ABC genes, our method allows the rapid and complete analysis of all ABC transporters in given RNA samples. We used our newly established expression panel to study the gene expression of all human ABC transporters in 20 different human tissues. As a result, we identified tissues with high transcriptional activity for ABC transporters. These organs are mainly involved in secretory function (adrenal gland), metabolic function (liver), barrier function (lung, trachea, small intestine), and tropic function (placenta, uterus).


Our RT-PCR assay allows rapid, high-throughput transcriptional profiling of the complete ABC transporter superfamily and thus provides a new enabling tool for research, clinical diagnosis of disease, and drug testing and development.

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