Numerous proteins are transported into or across the chloroplast thylakoid membrane. To date, two major pathways have been identified for the transport of luminal proteins (the Sec- and Tat-dependent pathways) and it is now clear that these protein translocases use fundamentally different transport mechanisms. Integral membrane proteins are inserted by means of at least two further pathways. One involves the input of numerous targeting factors, including SRP (signal recognition particle), FtsY and Albino3. Surprisingly, the other pathway does not involve any of the known chloroplastic targeting factors, and insertion is energy-independent, raising the possibility of an unusual ‘spontaneous’ insertion mechanism.

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