Chloroplast heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90C) represents a highly conserved subfamily of the Hsp90 family of molecular chaperones whose function has not been defined. We identified Hsp90C as a component that interacts with import intermediates of nuclear-encoded preproteins during posttranslational import into isolated chloroplasts. Hsp90C was specifically coprecipitated with a complex of protein import components, including Tic110, Tic40, Toc75, Tic22, and the stromal chaperones, Hsp93 and Hsp70. Radicicol, an inhibitor of Hsp90 ATPase activity, reversibly inhibited the import of a variety of preproteins during translocation across the inner envelope membrane, indicating that Hsp90C functions in membrane translocation into the organelle. Hsp90C is encoded by a single gene in Arabidopsis thaliana, and insertion mutations in the Hsp90C gene are embryo lethal, indicating an essential function for the chaperone in plant viability. On the basis of these results, we propose that Hsp90C functions within a chaperone complex in the chloroplast stroma to facilitate membrane translocation during protein import into the organelle.
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