The translocation of plastocyanin across the thylakoid membrane in Pisum sativum has been studied in reconstitution assays and using chimeric constructs. The reconstitution assays demonstrate that plastocyanin translocation is absolutely dependent on the presence of a stromal factor(s) and nucleotide triphosphates (NTPs), whereas neither element is required for the translocation of the 23 or 16 kDa proteins of the oxygen-evolving complex. Previous studies had revealed that the transthylakoidal delta pH is essential for translocation of the 23 and 16 kDa proteins but unnecessary for plastocyanin translocation. The basis for these mechanistic differences has been tested by analysing the translocation of a chimeric construct consisting of the presequence of the 23 kDa protein linked to the mature plastocyanin sequence. This construct is efficiently imported into thylakoids in the absence of stromal extracts or NTPs and translocation across the thylakoid membrane within intact chloroplasts is totally inhibited by the uncoupler nigericin: the translocation requirements are thus identical to those of the pre-23 kDa protein and diametrically opposite to those of pre-plastocyanin. Transport across the thylakoid membrane of a second fusion protein, consisting of the presequence of the 16 kDa protein linked to mature plastocyanin, is also dependent on a delta pH. The data suggest that two distinct systems are involved in the translocation of proteins across the thylakoid membrane, with each system recognizing specific signals within the presequences of a subset of lumenal protein precursors.