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Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2006 Mar;372(6):385-99. Epub 2006 Mar 16.

The motor domains of ABC-transporters. What can structures tell us?

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Institute of Biochemistry, Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf, Universitaetsstr. 1, 40225, Duesseldorf, Germanye.


The transport of substrates across a cellular membrane is a vitally important biological function essential for cell survival. ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters constitute one of the largest subfamilies of membrane proteins, accomplishing this task. Mutations in genes encoding for ABC transporters cause different diseases, for example, Adrenoleukodystrophy, Stargardt disease or Cystic Fibrosis. Furthermore, some ABC transporters are responsible for multidrug resistance, presenting a major obstacle in modern cancer chemotherapy. In order to translocate the enormous variety of substrates, ranging from ions, nutrients, small peptides to large toxins, different ABC-transporters utilize the energy gained from ATP binding and hydrolysis. The ATP binding cassette, also called the motor domain of ABC transporters, is highly conserved among all ABC transporters. The ability to purify this domain rather easily presents a perfect possibility to investigate the mechanism of ATP hydrolysis, thus providing us with a detailed picture of this process. Recently, many crystal structures of the ATP-binding domain and the full-length structures of two ABC transporters have been solved. Combining these structural data, we have now the opportunity to analyze the hydrolysis event on a molecular level. This review provides an overview of the structural investigations of the ATP-binding domains, highlighting molecular changes upon ATP binding and hydrolysis.

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