Transport proteins in bacteria: common themes in their design

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  06 Nov 1992:
Vol. 258, Issue 5084, pp. 936-942
DOI: 10.1126/science.1279804


Bacterial transport proteins mediate passive and active transport of small solutes across membranes. Comparison of amino acid sequences shows strong conservation not only among bacterial transporters, but also between them and many transporters of animal cells; thus the study of bacterial transporters is expected to contribute to our understanding of transporters in more complex cells. During the last few years, structures of three bacterial outer membrane transporters were solved by x-ray crystallography. Much progress has also occurred in the biochemical and molecular genetic studies of transporters in the cytoplasmic membranes of bacteria, and a unifying design among membrane transporters is gradually emerging. Common structural motives and evolutionary origins among transporters with diverse energy-coupling mechanisms suggest that many transporters contain a central module forming a transmembrane channel through which the solute may pass. Energy-coupling mechanisms can be viewed as secondary features added on to these fundamental translocation units.