Tim8 and Tim13 are non-essential, conserved proteins of the mitochondrial intermembrane space, which are organized in a hetero-oligomeric complex. They are structurally related to Tim9 and Tim10, essential components of the import machinery for mitochondrial carrier proteins. Here we show that the TIM8-13 complex interacts with translocation intermediates of Tim23, which are partially translocated across the outer membrane but not with fully imported or assembled Tim23. The TIM8-13 complex binds to the N-terminal or intermediate domain of Tim23. It traps the incoming precursor in the intermembrane space thereby preventing retrograde translocation. The TIM8-13 complex is strictly required for import of Tim23 under conditions when a low membrane potential exists in the mitochondria. The human homologue of Tim8 is encoded by the DDP1 (deafness/dystonia peptide 1) gene, which is associated with the Mohr-Tranebjaerg syndrome (MTS), a progressive neurodegenerative disorder leading to deafness. It is demonstrated that import of human Tim23 is dependent on a high membrane potential. A mechanism to explain the pathology of MTS is discussed.