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Transporters C


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The majority of biological solutes are charged organic or inorganic molecules. Cellular membranes are hydrophobic and, therefore, effective barriers to separate them allowing the formation of gradients, which can be exploited, for example, in the generation of energy. Membrane transporters carry solutes across cell membranes, which would otherwise be impermeable to them. The energy required for active transport processes is obtained from ATP turnover or by exploiting ion gradients.

ATP-driven transporters can be divided into three major classes: P-type ATPases; F-type or V-type ATPases and ATP-binding cassette transporters. The first of these, P-type ATPases, are multimeric proteins, which transport (primarily) inorganic cations. The second, F-type or V-type ATPases, are proton-coupled motors, which can function either as transporters or as motors. Last, are ATP-binding cassette transporters, heavily involved in drug disposition as well as transporting endogenous solutes.

The second largest family of membrane proteins in the human genome, after the G protein-coupled receptors, are the SLC solute carrier family. Within the solute carrier family, there are a great variety of solutes transported, from simple inorganic ions to amino acids and sugars to relatively complex organic molecules like haem. The solute carrier family includes 65 families of almost 400 members. Many of these overlap in terms of the solutes that they carry. For example, amino acids accumulation is mediated by members of the SLC1, SLC3/7, SLC6, SLC15, SLC16, SLC17, SLC32, SLC36, SLC38 and SLC43 families. Further members of the SLC superfamily regulate ion fluxes at the plasma membrane, or solute transport into and out of cellular organelles. Some SLC family members remain orphan transporters, in as much as a physiological function has yet to be dtermined. Within the SLC superfamily, there is an abundance in diversity of structure. Two families (SLC3 and SLC7) only generate functional transporters as heteromeric partners, where one partner is a single TM domain protein. Membrane topology predictions for other families suggest 3,4,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 or 14 TM domains. The SLC transporters include members which function as antiports, where solute movement in one direction is balanced by a solute moving in the reverse direction. Symports allow concentration gradients of one solute to allow co-transport of a second solute across a membrane. A third, relatively small group are equilibrative transporters, which allow solutes to travel across membranes down their concentration gradients. A more complex family of transporters, the SLC27 fatty acid transporters also exhibit enzymatic function. Many of the transporters also manifest electrogenic properties of ion channels.


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How to cite this family page

Database page citation:

Transporters. Accessed on 13/07/2024. IUPHAR/BPS Guide to PHARMACOLOGY,

Concise Guide to PHARMACOLOGY citation:

Alexander SPH, Kelly E, Mathie A, Peters JA, Veale EL, Armstrong JF, Faccenda E, Harding SD, Pawson AJ, Sharman JL, Southan C, Davies JA; CGTP Collaborators. (2019) The Concise Guide to PHARMACOLOGY 2019/20: Transporters. Br J Pharmacol. 176 Issue S1: S397-S493.