The effect of metal chelators on protein import was investigated using isolated soybean mitochondria and soybean precursor proteins. Adding 1,10-phenanthroline, a metal chelator that can cross both mitochondrial membranes abolished import of both the alternative oxidase, and the F(A)d subunit of the ATP synthase, a matrix located protein. Other metal chelators such as EDTA, 1,7-phenanthroline and 4,7-phenanthroline, which cannot cross the mitochondrial membranes, had no effect on import. When processing, a known metal-dependent step inside mitochondria, was inhibited using a mutagenesis approach (changing a -2 arginine to a -2 glycine in the pre-piece of the precursor), so was import. Thus it would appear that in soybean, at least, translocation of proteins across the mitochondrial membrane, as well as processing, relies on a metal dependent step. Taken together, the data suggest the two processes may be directly connected in these mitochondria.