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This article is part of the supplement: Validation methods for functional genome annotation

Open Access Research

Environment sensing and response mediated by ABC transporters

Sarah E Giuliani1, Ashley M Frank1, Danielle M Corgliano1, Catherine Seifert1, Loren Hauser2 and Frank R Collart1*

Author Affiliations

1 Biosciences Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL 60490, USA

2 Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, USA

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12(Suppl 1):S8  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-S1-S8

Published: 15 June 2011



Transporter proteins are one of an organism’s primary interfaces with the environment. The expressed set of transporters mediates cellular metabolic capabilities and influences signal transduction pathways and regulatory networks. The functional annotation of most transporters is currently limited to general classification into families. The development of capabilities to map ligands with specific transporters would improve our knowledge of the function of these proteins, improve the annotation of related genomes, and facilitate predictions for their role in cellular responses to environmental changes.


To improve the utility of the functional annotation for ABC transporters, we expressed and purified the set of solute binding proteins from Rhodopseudomonas palustris and characterized their ligand-binding specificity. Our approach utilized ligand libraries consisting of environmental and cellular metabolic compounds, and fluorescence thermal shift based high throughput ligand binding screens. This process resulted in the identification of specific binding ligands for approximately 64% of the purified and screened proteins. The collection of binding ligands is representative of common functionalities associated with many bacterial organisms as well as specific capabilities linked to the ecological niche occupied by R. palustris.


The functional screen identified specific ligands that bound to ABC transporter periplasmic binding subunits from R. palustris. These assignments provide unique insight for the metabolic capabilities of this organism and are consistent with the ecological niche of strain isolation. This functional insight can be used to improve the annotation of related organisms and provides a route to evaluate the evolution of this important and diverse group of transporter proteins.