Using streptolysin-O (SLO) we have developed a permeabilized cell system retaining the competence to import proteins into peroxisomes. We used luciferase and albumin conjugated with a peptide ending in the peroxisomal targeting sequence, SKL, to monitor the import of proteins into peroxisomes. After incubation with SLO-permeabilized cells, these exogenous proteins accumulated within catalase-containing vesicles. The import was strictly signal dependent and could be blocked by a 10-fold excess of peptide containing the SKL-targeting signal, while a control peptide did not affect the import. Peroxisomal accumulation of proteins was time and temperature dependent and required ATP hydrolysis. Dissipation of the membrane potential did not alter the import efficiency. GTP-hydrolyzing proteins were not required for peroxisomal protein targeting. Depletion of endogenous cytosol from permeabilized cells abolished the competence to import proteins into peroxisomes but import was reconstituted by the addition of external cytosol. We present evidence that cytosol contains factors with SKL-specific binding sites. The activity of cytosol is insensitive to N-ethylmaleimide (NEM) treatment, while the cells contain NEM-sensitive membrane-bound or associated proteins which are involved in the import machinery. The cytosol dependence and NEM-sensitivity of peroxisomal protein import should facilitate the purification of proteins involved in the import of proteins into peroxisomes.

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