Import of precursor proteins into the yeast mitochondrial matrix can occur directly across the inner membrane. First, disruption of the outer membrane restores protein import to mitochondria whose normal import sites have been blocked by an antibody against the outer membrane or by a chimeric, incompletely translocated precursor protein. Second, a potential- and ATP-dependent import of authentic or artificial precursor proteins is observed with purified inner membrane vesicles virtually free of outer membrane components. Third, import into purified inner membrane vesicles is insensitive to antibody against the outer membrane. Thus, while outer membrane components are clearly required in vivo, the inner membrane contains a complete protein translocation system that can operate by itself if the outer membrane barrier is removed.

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