ABC (ATP-binding cassette) proteins are ubiquitously found in prokaryotes and eukaryotes and generally serve as membrane-intrinsic primary active pumps. In higher plants, ABC proteins constitute a large family, grouped phylogenetically into eight clusters, subfamilies ABCA–ABCI (ABCH is not found in plants). ABC transporters shuttle substrates as diverse as lipids, phytohormones, carboxylates, heavy metals, chlorophyll catabolites and xenobiotic conjugates across a variety of biological membranes. To date, the largest proportions of characterized members have been localized to the plasma membrane and the tonoplast, with dominant implications in cellular secretion and vacuolar sequestration, but they are also found in mitochondrial, plastidal and peroxisomal membranes. Originally identified as tonoplast-intrinsic proteins that shuttle xenobiotic conjugates from the cytosol into the vacuole, thus being an integral part of the detoxification machinery, ABC transporters are now recognized to participate in a multitude of physiological processes that allow the plant to adapt to changing environments and cope with biotic and abiotic stresses.

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