A decisive step in the biosynthesis of many eukaryotic proteins is their partial or complete translocation across the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. A similar process occurs in prokaryotes, except that proteins are transported across or are integrated into the plasma membrane. In both cases, translocation occurs through a protein-conducting channel that is formed from a conserved, heterotrimeric membrane protein complex, the Sec61 or SecY complex. Structural and biochemical data suggest mechanisms that enable the channel to function with different partners, to open across the membrane and to release laterally hydrophobic segments of membrane proteins into lipid.
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