To specify the C-terminal peroxisome targeting signal type 1 (PTS1) and the N-terminal PTS2 for higher plants, a maximum number of plant cDNAs and expressed sequence tags that are homologous to PTS1- and PTS2-targeted plant proteins was retrieved from the public databases and the primary structure of their targeting domains was analyzed for conserved properties. According to their high overall frequency in the homologs and their widespread occurence in different orthologous groups, nine major PTS1 tripeptides ([SA][RK][LM]> without AKM> plus SRI> and PRL>) and two major PTS2 nonapeptides (R[LI]x5HL) were defined that are considered good indicators for peroxisomal localization if present in unknown proteins. A lower but significant number of homologs contained 1 of 11 minor PTS1 tripeptides or of 9 minor PTS2 nonapeptides, many of which have not been identified before in plant peroxisomal proteins. The region adjacent to the PTS peptides was characterized by specific conserved properties as well, such as a pronounced incidence of basic and Pro residues and a high positive net charge, which probably play an auxiliary role in peroxisomal targeting. By contrast, several peptides with assumed peroxisomal targeting properties were not found in any of the 550 homologs and hence play--if at all--only a minor role in peroxisomal targeting. Based on the definition of these major and minor PTS and on the recognition of additional conserved properties, the accuracy of predicting peroxisomal proteins can be raised and plant genomes can be screened for novel proteins of peroxisomes more successfully.
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