Determinants for the recognition of a mitochondrial presequence by the mitochondrial processing peptidase (MPP) have been investigated using mutagenesis and bioinformatics approaches. All plant mitochondrial presequences with a cleavage site that was confirmed by experimental studies can be grouped into three classes. Two major classes contain an arginine residue at position -2 or -3, and the third class does not have any conserved arginines. Sequence logos revealed loosely conserved cleavage motifs for the first two classes but no significant amino acid conservation for the third class. Investigation of processing determinants for a class III precursor, Nicotiana plumbaginifolia F1beta precursor of ATP synthase (pF1beta), was performed using a series of pF1beta presequence mutants and mutant presequence peptides derived from the C-terminal portion of the presequence. Replacement of -2 Gln by Arg inhibited processing, whereas replacement of either the most proximally located -5 Arg or -15 Arg by Leu had only a low inhibitory effect. The C-terminal portion of the pF1beta presequence forms a helix-turn-helix structure. Mutations disturbing or prolonging the helical element upstream of the cleavage site inhibited processing significantly. Structural models of potato MPP and the C-terminal pF1beta presequence peptide were built by homology modelling and empirical conformational energy search methods, respectively. Molecular docking of the pF1beta presequence peptide to the MPP model suggested binding of the peptide to the negatively charged binding cleft formed by the alpha-MPP and beta-MPP subunits in close proximity to the H111XXE114H115X(116-190)E191 proteolytic active site on beta-MPP. Our results show for the first time that the amino acid at the -2 position, even if not an arginine, as well as structural properties of the C-terminal portion of the presequence are important determinants for the processing of a class III precursor by MPP.