Most chloroplast proteins are nuclear encoded, synthesized as larger precursor proteins in the cytosol, posttranslationally imported into the organelle, and routed to one of six different compartments. Import across the outer and inner envelope membranes into the stroma is the major means for entry of proteins destined for the stroma, the thylakoid membrane, and the thylakoid lumen. Recent investigations have identified several unique protein components of the envelope translocation machinery. These include two GTP-binding proteins that appear to participate in the early events of import and probably regulate precursor recognition and advancement into the translocon. Localization of imported precursor proteins to the thylakoid membrane and thylakoid lumen is accomplished by four distinct mechanisms; two are homologous to bacterial and endoplasmic reticulum protein transport systems, one appears unique, and the last may be a spontaneous mechanism. Thus chloroplast protein targeting is a unique and surprisingly complex process. The presence of GTP-binding proteins in the envelope translocation machinery indicates a different precursor recognition process than is present in mitochondria. Mechanisms for thylakoid protein localization are in part derived from the prokaryotic endosymbiont, but are more unusual and diverse than expected.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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