McFarlane HE, Shin JJ, Bird DA, Samuels AL
Plant Cell 2010 Sep; 22(9):3066-75
ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters play diverse roles, including lipid transport, in all kingdoms. ABCG subfamily transporters that are encoded as half-transporters require dimerization to form a functional ABC transporter. Different dimer combinations that may transport diverse substrates have been predicted from mutant phenotypes. In Arabidopsis thaliana, mutant analyses have shown that ABCG11/WBC11 and ABCG12/CER5 are required for lipid export from the epidermis to the protective cuticle. The objective of this study was to determine whether ABCG11 and ABCG12 interact with themselves or each other using bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) and protein traffic assays in vivo. With BiFC, ABCG11/ABCG12 heterodimers and ABCG11 homodimers were detected, while ABCG12 homodimers were not. Fluorescently tagged ABCG11 or ABCG12 was localized in the stem epidermal cells of abcg11 abcg12 double mutants. ABCG11 could traffic to the plasma membrane in the absence of ABCG12, suggesting that ABCG11 is capable of forming flexible dimer partnerships. By contrast, ABCG12 was retained in the endoplasmic reticulum in the absence of ABCG11, indicating that ABCG12 is only capable of forming a dimer with ABCG11 in epidermal cells. Emerging themes in ABCG transporter biology are that some ABCG proteins are promiscuous, having multiple partnerships, while other ABCG transporters form obligate heterodimers for specialized functions.