A peptide present on proteins that are destined either to be secreted or to be membrane components. It is usually at the N terminus and normally absent from the mature protein. Normally refers to the sequence (ca 20 amino acids) that interacts with signal recognition particle and directs the ribosome to the endoplasmic reticulum where co translational insertion takes place. Could also refer to sequences that direct post translational uptake by organelles. Signal peptides are highly hydrophobic but with some positively charged residues. The signal sequence is normally removed from the growing peptide chain by signal peptidase, a specific protease located on the cisternal face of the endoplasmic reticulum.
See: signal recognition particle.