The discovery that chloroplasts have semi-autonomous genetic systems has led to many insights into the biogenesis of these organelles and their evolution from free-living photosynthetic bacteria. Recent developments of our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of translation in chloroplasts suggest selective pressures that have maintained the 100-200 genes of the ancestral endosymbiont in chloroplast genomes. The ability to introduce modified genes into chloroplast genomes by homologous recombination and the recent development of an in vitro chloroplast translation system have been exploited for analyses of the cis-acting requirements for chloroplast translation. Trans-acting translational factors have been identified by genetic and biochemical approaches. Several studies have suggested that chloroplast mRNAs are translated in association with membranes.