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Chloroplasts are photosynthetic plant organelles descended from a bacterial ancestor. The vast majority of chloroplast proteins are synthesized in the cytosol and then imported into the chloroplast post-translationally. Translocation complexes exist in the organelle's outer and inner envelope membranes (termed TOC and TIC, respectively) to facilitate protein import. These systems recognize chloroplast precursor proteins and mediate their import in an energy-dependent manner. However, many unanswered questions remain regarding mechanistic details of the import process and the participation and functions of individual components; for example, the cytosolic events that mediate protein delivery to chloroplasts, the composition of the TIC apparatus, and the nature of the protein import motor all require resolution. The flux of proteins through TOC and TIC varies greatly throughout development and in response to specific environmental cues. The import process is, therefore, tightly regulated, and it has emerged that the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) plays a key role in this regard, acting at several different steps in the process. The UPS is involved in: the selective degradation of transcription factors that co-ordinate the expression of chloroplast precursor proteins; the removal of unimported chloroplast precursor proteins in the cytosol; the inhibition of chloroplast biogenesis pre-germination; and the reconfiguration of the TOC apparatus in response to developmental and environmental signals in a process termed chloroplast-associated protein degradation. In this review, we highlight recent advances in our understanding of protein import into chloroplasts and how this process is regulated by the UPS.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochem Soc Trans

Publication Date





71 - 82


chloroplasts, organelle biogenesis, plastid, protein import, protein translocation, ubiquitin-proteasome system