Eukaryotic cells are divided into multiple membrane-bound compartments, all of which contain proteins. A large subset of these proteins perform functions that are required in more than one compartment. Although in most cases proteins carrying out the same function in different compartments are encoded by different genes, this is not always true. Numerous examples have now been found where a single gene encodes proteins (or RNAs) found in two (or more) cell organelles or membrane systems. Some particularly clear examples come from protein synthesis itself: plant cells contain three protein-synthesizing compartments, the cytosol, the mitochondrial matrix and the plastid stroma. All three compartments thus require tRNAs and aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. Some mitochondrial tRNAs and their aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases are identical to their cytosolic counterparts and they are encoded by the same genes. Similarly, some mitochondrial and plastid aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases are encoded by the same nuclear genes. The various ways in which differentially targeted products can be generated from single genes is discussed.