The role of passenger domains in protein targeting was examined by fusing previously characterized targeting motifs to different protein sequences. To compare the targeting requirements for a variety of subcellular compartments, targeting of the fusion proteins was examined for endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria and peroxisomes in vitro and in yeast. Although most passenger domains were only partially passive to translocation, motif-dependent targeting via motifs positioned at either end of one passenger domain (gPA) was demonstrated for all of the subcellular compartments tested. The data presented extend earlier suggestions that translocation competence is an intrinsic property of the passenger protein. However, the properties that determine protein targeting are not mutually exclusive for the compartments tested. Therefore, although the primary determinant of specificity is the targeting motif, our results suggest that translocation competence of the targeted protein augments the fidelity of transport.