The precursor of the ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase small subunit and other proteins from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii are efficiently transported into chloroplasts isolated from spinach and pea. Thus, similar determinants specify precursor-chloroplast interactions in the alga and vascular plants. Removal of all or part of its transit sequence was found to block import of the algal small subunit into isolated chloroplasts. Comparison of available sequences revealed a nine amino acid segment conserved in the transit sequences of all small subunit precursors. A protease in the vascular plant chloroplasts recognized this region in the Chlamydomonas precursor and produced an intermediate form of the small subunit. We propose that processing of the small subunit precursor involves at least two proteolytic events; only one of these has been evolutionarily conserved.

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