Trichomonas vaginalis is a primitive protist that lacks mitochondria and peroxisomes. This aerotolerant anaerobe does, however, contain a specialized organelle involved in carbohydrate metabolism called the hydrogenosome. Hydrogenosomes are the site of fermentative oxidation of pyruvate, coupled to ATP production via substrate level phosphorylation. The organelle is surrounded by 2 membranes and appears to contain no genetic material. Hydrogenosomes are proposed to have arisen either through the conversion of mitochondria or via endosymbiosis with an anaerobic bacterium. Our studies show that hydrogenosomal proteins are synthesized on free polyribosomes and are, thus, posttranslationally translocated into the organelle. The 2 hydrogenosomal proteins we have examined in detail, ferredoxin and the beta subunit of succinyl CoA synthetase, appear to be synthesized as larger precursors that contain an 8- or 9-amino acid amino-terminal extension, respectively. These apparent leader sequences are absent from the mature proteins found in hydrogenosomes. The biochemical properties of the amino-terminal extensions are similar to one another and to mitochondrial presequences. These observations are consistent with the hypotheses that the specificity of protein translocation into hydrogenosomes is conferred by a short amino-terminal signal sequence and that the mechanisms underlying translocation are similar to that of mitochondria. Using in vitro import assays, we have shown that this short leader sequence is absolutely required for association of hydrogenosomal proteins with the organelle and that this association is dependent on ATP, temperature, and the presence of intact organelles.