Structural components involved in plastid protein import
Import of preproteins into chloroplasts is an essential process, requiring two major multisubunit protein complexes that are embedded in the outer and inner chloroplast envelope membrane. Both the translocon of the outer chloroplast membrane (Toc), as well as the translocon of the inner chloroplast membrane (Tic) have been studied intensively with respect to their individual subunit compositions, functions and regulations. Recent advances in crystallography have increased our understanding of the operation of these proteins in terms of their interactions and regulation by conformational switching. Several subdomains of components of the Toc translocon have been studied at the structural level, among them the polypeptide transport-associated (POTRA) domain of the channel protein Toc75 and the GTPase domain of Toc34. In this review, we summarize and discuss the insight that has been gained from these structural analyses. In addition, we present the crystal structure of the Toc64 tetratrico-peptide repeat (TPR) domain in complex with the C-terminal domains of the heat-shock proteins (Hsp) Hsp90 and Hsp70.