Microbial genome analyses: Global comparisons of transport capabilities based on phylogenies, bioenergetics and substrate specificities

Ian T. Paulsen, Marek K. Sliwinski, Milton H. Saier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

255 Citations (Scopus)


We have conducted genome sequence analyses of seven prokaryotic microorganisms for which completely sequenced genomes are available (Escherichia coli, Haemophilus influenzae, Helicobacter pylori, Bacillus subtilis, Mycoplasma genitalium, Synechocystis PCC6803 and Methanococcus jannaschii). We report the distribution of encoded known and putative polytopic cytoplasmic membrane transport proteins within these genomes. Transport systems for each organism were classified according to (1) putative membrane topology, (2) protein family, (3) bioenergetics, and (4) substrate specificities. The overall transport capabilities of each organism were thereby estimated. Probable function was assigned to greater than 90% of the putative transport proteins identified. The results show the following: (1) Numbers of transport systems in eubacteria are approximately proportional to genome size and correspond to 9.7 to 10.8% of the total encoded genes except for H. pylori (5.4%), Synechocystis (4.7%) and M. jannaschii (3.5%) which exhibit substantially lower proportions. (2) The distribution of topological types is similar in all seven organisms. (3) Transport systems belonging to 67 families were identified within the genomes of these organisms, and about half of these families are also found in eukaryotes. (4) 12% of these families are found exclusively in Gram-negative bacteria, but none is found exclusively in Gram-positive bacteria, cyanobacteria or archaea. (5) Two superfamilies, the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) and major facilitator (MF) superfamilies account for nearly 50% of all transporters in each organism, but the relative representation of these two transporter types varies over a tenfold range, depending on the organism. (6) Secondary, pmf-dependent carriers are 1.5 to threefold more prevalent than primary ATP-dependent carriers in E. coli, H. influenzae, H. pylori and B. subtilis while primary carriers are about twofold more prevalent in M. genitalium and Synechocystis. M. jannaschii exhibits a slight preference for secondary carriers. (7) Bioenergetics of transport generally correlate with the primary forms of energy generated via available metabolic pathways but ecological niche and substrate availability may also be determining factors. (8) All organisms display a similar range of transport specificities with quantitative differences presumably reflective of disparate ecological niches. (9) M. jannaschii and Synechocystis have a two to threefold increased proportion of transporters for inorganic ions with a concomitant decrease in transporters for organic compounds. (10) 6 to 18% of all transporters in these bacteria probably function as drug export systems showing that these systems are prevalent in non-pathogenic as well as pathogenic organisms. (11) All seven prokaryotes examined encode proteins homologous to known channel proteins, but none of the channel types identified occurs in all of these organisms. (12) The phosphoenolpyruvate:sugar phosphotransferase system is prevalent in the large genome organisms, E. coli and B. subtilis and is present in the small genome organisms, H. influenzae and M. geni talium, but is totally lacking in H. pylori, Synechocystis and M. jannaschii. Details of the information summarized in this article are available on our web sites, and this information will be periodically updated and corrected as new sequence and biochemical data become available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-592
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytoplasmic membrane
  • Energetics
  • Genomes
  • Phylogeny
  • Transport


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