When the in vitro synthesized precursor of a light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b binding protein (LHCP) from Lemna gibba is imported into barley etiochloroplasts, it is processed to a single form. Both the processed form and the precursor are found in the thylakoid membranes, assembled into the light-harvesting complex of photosystem II. Neither form can be detected in the stromal fraction. The relative amounts of precursor and processed forms observed in the thylakoids are dependent on the developmental stage of the plastids used for uptake. The precursor as well as the processed form can also be detected in thylakoids of greening maize plastids used in similar uptake experiments. This detection of a precursor in the thylakoids, which has not been previously reported, could be a result of using rapidly developing plastids and/or using an heterologous system. Our results demonstrate that the extent of processing of LHCP precursor is not a prerequisite for its inclusion in the complex. They are also consistent with the possibility that the processing step can occur after insertion of the protein into the thylakoid membrane.

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