ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters form a large protein family. They bind and hydrolyze ATP, and utilize the energy of ATP hydrolysis to mediate the translocation of a wide variety of substances across cellular membranes. Forty-eight human ABC transporters have been identified and subdivided into seven phylogenic groupings, subfamily ABCA through to ABCG. The human ABCA subfamily is composed of 12 members, ABCA1-10, and ABCA12-13. Among these, ABCA1 plays a key metabolic role in reverse cholesterol transport from peripheral tissues to the liver, and in HDL synthesis. ABCA4 is a putative transporter of retinoids in rod cells and ABCA2 is a lysosome-associated transporter found in brain oligodendrocytes. Human ABCA3 is expressed in the lung alveolar type II cells, while ABCA7 is expressed mainly in the spleen and in hematopoietic tissues. ABCA12 appears to be essential for normal development of the skin. These transporters have been discovered to be associated with different diseases. The other members, ABCA5, 6, 8, 9, and 10, are found to be organized into a head to tail cluster of chromosomes on chromosome 17q24.
Here, we give an introduction of part of the human ABC subfamily A members focusing on their structure, tissue distribution, physiological roles and functions, as well as recent findings. Some of these transporters are well-characterized but the properties of the others are required to be further elucidated in the future.
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