Chloroplast protein import presents a complex membrane traversal problem: precursor proteins must cross two envelope membranes to reach the stromal compartment. This work characterizes a new chloroplast protein import intermediate which has completely traversed the outer envelope membrane but has not yet reached the stroma. The existence of this intermediate demonstrates that distinct protein transport machineries are present in both envelope membranes, and that they are able to operate independently of one another under certain conditions. Energetic characterization of this pathway led to the identification of three independent energy-requiring steps: binding of the precursor to the outer envelope membrane, outer membrane transport, and inner membrane transport. Localization of the sites of energy utilization for each of these steps, as well as their respective nucleotide specificities, suggest that three different ATPases mediate chloroplast envelope transport.

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