The Chloroplast Protein Import Machinery: A Review

  • Penelope Strittmatter
  • Jürgen Soll
  • Bettina Bölter
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 619)


Plastids are a heterogeneous family of organelles found ubiquitously in plants and algal cells. Most prominent are the chloroplasts, which carry out such essential processes as photosynthesis and the biosynthesis of fatty acids as well as of amino acids. As mitochondria, chloroplasts are derived from a single endosymbiotic event. They are believed to have evolved from an ancient cyanobacterium, which was engulfed by an early eukaryotic ancestor. During evolution the plastid genome has been greatly reduced and most of the genes have been transferred to the host nucleus. Consequently, more than 98% of all plastid proteins are translated on cytosolic ribosomes. They have to be posttranslationally targeted to and imported into the organelle. Targeting is assisted by cytosolic proteins which interact with proteins destined for plastids and thereby keep them in an import competent state. After reaching the target organelle, many proteins have to conquer the barrier of the chloroplast outer and inner envelope. This process is mediated by complex molecular machines in the outer (Toc complex) and inner (Tic complex) envelope of chloroplasts, respectively. Most proteins destined for the compartments inside the chloroplast contain a cleavable N-terminal transit peptide, whereas most of the outer envelope components insert into the membrane without such a targeting peptide.

Key words

Chloroplasts protein targeting in vivo import translocation machinery Toc/Tic sorting 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Penelope Strittmatter
    • 1
  • Jürgen Soll
    • 1
  • Bettina Bölter
    • 1
  1. 1.Department Biologie I-BotanikLudwig-Maximilians-Universität, Planegg-Martinsried and Munich Center for Integrated Protein Science, CiPSM, Ludwig-Maximilians- UniversitätMunichGermany

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