We demonstrate that the precursor of the major light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b binding protein (LHCP of Photosystem II), encoded by a Type I gene, contains distinct determinants for processing at two sites during in vitro import into the chloroplast. Using precursors from both pea and wheat, it is shown that primary site processing, and release of a approximately 26-kD peptide, depends on an amino-proximal basic residue. Substitution of an arginine at position -4 resulted in an 80% reduction in processing, with the concomitant accumulation of a high molecular weight intermediate. Cleavage occurred normally when arginine was changed to lysine. The hypothesis that a basic residue is a general requirement for transit peptide removal was tested. We find that the precursors for the small subunit of Rubisco and Rubisco activase do not require a basic residue within seven amino acids of the cleavage site for maturation. In the wheat LHCP precursor, determinants for efficient cleavage at a secondary site were identified carboxy to the primary site, beyond what is traditionally called the transit peptide, within the sequence ala-lys-ala-lys (residues 38-41). Introduction of this sequence into the pea precursor, which has the residues thr-thr-lys-lys in the corresponding position, converted it to a substrate with an efficiently recognized secondary site. Our results indicate that two different forms of LHCP can be produced with distinct NH2-termini by selective cleavage of a single precursor polypeptide.

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