Two distinct pathways of sorting and assembly of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial inner membrane proteins are described. In the first pathway, precursor proteins that carry amino-terminal targeting signals are initially translocated via contact sites between both mitochondrial membranes into the mitochondrial matrix. They become proteolytically processed, interact with the 60-kDa heat-shock protein hsp60 in the matrix and are retranslocated to the inner membrane. The sorting of subunit 9 of Neurospora crassa Fo-ATPase has been studied as an example. Fo subunit 9 belongs to that class of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial proteins which are evolutionarily derived from a prokaryotic ancestor according to the endosymbiont hypothesis. We suggest that after import into mitochondria, these proteins follow the ancestral sorting and assembly pathways established in prokäryotes (conservative sorting). On the other hand, ADP/ATP carrier was found not to require interaction with hsp60 for import and assembly. This agrees with previous findings that the ADP/ATP carrier possesses non-amino-terminal targeting signals and uses a different import receptor to other mitochondrial precursor proteins. It is proposed that the ADP/ATP carrier represents a class of mitochondrial inner membrane proteins which do not have a prokaryotic equivalent and thus appear to follow a non-conservative sorting pathway.