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Traffic. 2001 Apr;2(4):245-51.

Multiple pathways used for the targeting of thylakoid proteins in chloroplasts.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom.


The assembly of the chloroplast thylakoid membrane requires the import of numerous proteins from the cytosol and their targeting into or across the thylakoid membrane. It is now clear that multiple pathways are involved in the thylakoid-targeting stages, depending on the type of protein substrate. Two very different pathways are used by thylakoid lumen proteins; one is the Sec pathway which has been well-characterised in bacteria, and which involves the threading of the substrate through a narrow channel. In contrast, the more recently characterised twin-arginine translocation (Tat) system is able to translocate fully folded proteins across this membrane. Recent advances on bacterial Tat systems shed further light on the structure and function of this system. Membrane proteins, on the other hand, use two further pathways. One is the signal recognition particle-dependent pathway, involving a complex interplay between many different factors, whereas other proteins insert without the assistance of any known apparatus. This article reviews advances in the study of these pathways and considers the rationale behind the surprising complexity.

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