Subfamily C of the human ABC (ATP-binding cassette) superfamily contains nine proteins that are often referred to as the MRPs (multidrug-resistance proteins). The ‘short’ MRP/ABCC transporters (MRP4, MRP5, MRP8 and ABCC12) have a typical ABC structure with four domains comprising two membrane-spanning domains (MSD1 and MSD2) each followed by a nucleotide-binding domain (NBD1 and NBD2). The ‘long’ MRP/ABCCs (MRP1, MRP2, MRP3, ABCC6 and MRP7) have five domains with the extra domain, MSD0, at the N-terminus. The proteins encoded by the ABCC6 and ABCC12 genes are not known to transport drugs and are therefore referred to as ABCC6 and ABCC12 (rather than MRP6 and MRP9) respectively. A large number of molecules are transported across the plasma membrane by the MRPs. Many are organic anions derived from exogenous sources such as conjugated drug metabolites. Others are endogenous metabolites such as the cysteinyl leukotrienes and prostaglandins which have important signalling functions in the cell. Some MRPs share a degree of overlap in substrate specificity (at least in vitro), but differences in transport kinetics are often substantial. In some cases, the in vivo substrates for some MRPs have been discovered aided by studies in gene-knockout mice. However, the molecules that are transported in vivo by others, including MRP5, MRP7, ABCC6 and ABCC12, still remain unknown. Important differences in the tissue distribution of the MRPs and their membrane localization (apical in contrast with basolateral) in polarized cells also exist. Together, these differences are responsible for the unique pharmacological and physiological functions of each of the nine ABCC transporters known as the MRPs.

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