The tripartite ATP-independent periplasmic (TRAP) transporters of bacteria and archaea

D J Kelly, G H Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Until recently, extracytoplasmic solute receptor (ESR)-dependent uptake systems were invariably found to possess a conserved ATP-binding protein (the ATP-binding cassette protein or ABC protein), which couples ATP hydrolysis to the translocation of the solute across the cytoplasmic membrane. While it is clear that this class of ABC transporter is ubiquitous in prokaryotes, it is now firmly established that other, unrelated types of membrane transport systems exist which also have ESR components. These systems have been designated tripartite ATP-independent periplasmic (TRAP) transporters, and they form a distinct class of ESR-dependent secondary transporters where the driving force for solute accumulation is an electrochemical ion gradient and not ATP hydrolysis. Currently, the most well characterised TRAP transporter at the functional and molecular level is the high-affinity C4-dicarboxylate transport (Dct) system from Rhodobacter capsulatus. This consists of three proteins; an ESR (DctP) and small (DctQ) and large (DctM) integral membrane proteins. The characteristics of this system are discussed in detail. Homologues of the R. capsulatus DctPQM proteins are present in a diverse range of prokaryotes, both bacteria and archaea, but not in eukaryotes. The deduced structures and possible functions of these homologous systems are described. In addition to the DctP family, other types of ESRs can be associated with TRAP transporters. A conserved family of immunogenic extracytoplasmic proteins is shown to be invariably associated with TRAP systems that contain a large DctQM fusion protein. All of the currently known archaeal systems are of this type. It is concluded that TRAP transporters are a widespread and ancient type of solute uptake system that transport a potentially diverse range of solutes and most likely evolved by the addition of auxiliary proteins to a single secondary transporter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-24
Number of pages20
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2001


  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Archaeal Proteins/chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins/chemistry
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Carrier Proteins/chemistry
  • Dicarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • Dicarboxylic Acids/metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Membrane Proteins/chemistry
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Periplasmic Proteins

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