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Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2010;61:157-80. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-042809-112222.

Protein transport into chloroplasts.

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Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan.


Most proteins in chloroplasts are encoded by the nuclear genome and synthesized as precursors with N-terminal targeting signals called transit peptides. Novel machinery has evolved to specifically import these proteins from the cytosol into chloroplasts. This machinery consists of more than a dozen components located in and around the chloroplast envelope, including a pair of GTPase receptors, a beta-barrel-type channel across the outer membrane, and an AAA(+)-type motor in the stroma. How individual components assemble into functional subcomplexes and the sequential steps of the translocation process are being mapped out. An increasing number of noncanonical import pathways, including a pathway with initial transport through the endomembrane system, is being revealed. Multiple levels of control on protein transport into chloroplasts have evolved, including the development of two receptor subfamilies, one for photosynthetic proteins and one for housekeeping proteins. The functions or expression levels of some translocon components are further adjusted according to plastid type, developmental stage, and metabolic conditions.

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