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The vast majority of chloroplast proteins are synthesized in precursor form on cytosolic ribosomes. Chloroplast precursor proteins have cleavable, N-terminal targeting signals called transit peptides. Transit peptides direct precursor proteins to the chloroplast in an organelle-specific way. They can be phosphorylated by a cytosolic protein kinase, and this leads to the formation of a cytosolic guidance complex. The guidance complex--comprising precursor, hsp70 and 14-3-3 proteins, as well as several unidentified components--docks at the outer envelope membrane. Translocation of precursor proteins across the envelope is achieved by the joint action of molecular machines called Toc (translocon at the outer envelope membrane of chloroplasts) and Tic (translocon at the inner envelope membrane of chloroplasts), respectively. The action of the Toc/Tic apparatus requires the hydrolysis of ATP and GTP at different levels, indicating energetic requirements and regulatory properties of the import process. The main subunits of the Toc and Tic complexes have been identified and characterized in vivo, in organello and in vitro. Phylogenetic evidence suggests that several translocon subunits are of cyanobacterial origin, indicating that today's import machinery was built around a prokaryotic core.


Journal article


Biochim Biophys Acta

Publication Date





64 - 79


Arabidopsis, Cell Membrane, Chloroplasts, Cytosol, Intracellular Membranes, Models, Chemical, Peas, Plant Proteins, Protein Precursors, Protein Transport