The transit peptide of the waxy protein of maize which in the maize plant targets this protein only into amyloplasts was used for in vitro protein transport experiments with isolated amyloplasts from maize and chloroplasts from maize, pea and potato. In the presence of both intact and disrupted amyloplasts an artificial preprotein (TP30), consisting of the waxy transit peptide plus the first 34 amino acids of the mature waxy protein fused in-frame to the beta-glucuronidase of Escherichia coli, is processed to the size expected when the transit peptide is cleaved off. The chloroplasts studied show in vitro import and correct processing of both TP30 and the authentic waxy protein, but not of the beta-glucuronidase without the waxy transit peptide. The in vitro import of TP30 into chloroplasts is almost as efficient as that of the precursor of the small subunit of pea ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase, a nuclear-encoded chloroplast protein, whereas the waxy protein accumulates to a lesser extent in the chloroplasts. Since the amino-terminal transit peptides of TP30 and the waxy precursor are the same, this difference must be due to the mature part of the waxy protein. One possible explanation is the observed instability of the waxy protein in the presence of chloroplasts.