Special codes are embedded in the primary sequence of newly synthesized proteins to determine their final destination. Protein translocation across biological membranes requires co-operation between the targeting and translocation machineries. A conserved membrane channel, the Sec61/SecY complex, mediates protein translocation across or integration into the endoplasmic reticulum membrane in eukaryotes and the plasma membrane in prokaryotes. A combination of recent biochemical and structural data provides novel insights into the mechanism of how the channel allows polypeptide movement into the exoplasmic space and the lipid bilayer.

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