The membrane insertion of the 22-kD integral peroxisomal membrane protein (PMP 22) was studied in a system in which peroxisomes isolated from rat liver were incubated with the [35S]methionine-labeled in vitro translation product of PMP 22 mRNA. Membrane insertion of PMP 22 was demonstrated by protease treatment of peroxisomes in the absence and presence of detergent. Approximately 35% of total in vitro translated PMP 22 became protease resistant after a 1-h incubation at 26 degrees C. Import was dependent on time and temperature, did not require ATP or GTP and was not inhibited by N-ethylmaleimide treatment of neither the soluble components of the translation mixture nor of the isolated peroxisomes. In contrast to these results it was recently shown that the import of the peroxisomal marker, firefly luciferase, into peroxisomes of permeabilized cells was dependent on ATP hydrolysis and was blocked by N-ethylmaleimide pretreatment of the cytosol-depleted cells (Rapp et al., 1993; Wendland and Subramani, 1993). Therefore, the present data suggest that insertion of PMP 22 into the peroxisomal membrane and translocation of firefly luciferase into peroxisomes follow distinct mechanisms. At low temperature binding of PMP 22 to the peroxisomal membrane was not influenced whereas insertion was strongly inhibited. Pretreatment of peroxisomes with subtilisin reduced binding to a low level and completely abolished insertion. Therefore it is suggested that binding is prerequisite to insertion and that insertion may be mediated by a proteinaceous receptor.

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