© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology. All rights reserved. The majority of more than 1000 proteins present in mitochondria are imported from nuclear-encoded, cytosolically synthesized precursor proteins. This impressive feat of transport and sorting is achieved by the combined action of targeting signals on mitochondrial proteins and the mitochondrial protein import apparatus. The mitochondrial protein import apparatus is composed of a number of multi-subunit protein complexes that recognize, translocate, and assemble mitochondrial proteins into functional complexes. While the core subunits involved in mitochondrial protein import are well conserved across wide phylogenetic gaps, the accessory subunits of these complexes differ in identity and/or function when plants are compared with Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast), the model system for mitochondrial protein import. These differences include distinct protein import receptors in plants, different mechanistic operation of the intermembrane protein import system, the location and activity of peptidases, the function of inner-membrane translocases in linking the outer and inner membrane, and the association/regulation of mitochondrial protein import complexes with components of the respiratory chain. Additionally, plant mitochondria share proteins with plastids, i.e. dual-targeted proteins. Also, the developmental and cell-specific nature of mitochondrial biogenesis is an aspect not observed in single-celled systems that is readily apparent in studies in plants. This means that plants provide a valuable model system to study the various regulatory processes associated with protein import and mitochondrial biogenesis.