Abstract Background A previous screening of Arabidopsis thaliana for mutants exhibiting dysfunctional chloroplast protein transport identified the chloroplast import apparatus (cia) gene. The cia2 mutant has a pale green phenotype and reduced rate of protein import into chloroplasts, but leaf shape and size are similar to wild-type plants of the same developmental stage. Microarray analysis showed that nuclear CIA2 protein enhances expression of the Toc75, Toc33, CPN10 and cpRPs genes, thereby up-regulating protein import and synthesis efficiency in chloroplasts. CIA2-like (CIL) shares 65% sequence identity to CIA2, suggesting that CIL and CIA2 are homologous proteins in Arabidopsis. Here, we further assess the protein interactions and sequence features of CIA2 and CIL. Results Subcellular localizations of truncated CIA2 protein fragments in our onion transient assay demonstrate that CIA2 contains two nuclear localization signals (NLS) located at amino acids (aa) 62-65 and 291-308, whereas CIL has only one NLS at aa 47-50. We screened a yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) Arabidopsis cDNA library to search for putative CIA2-interacting proteins and identified 12 nuclear proteins, including itself, CIL, and flowering-control proteins (such as CO, NF-YB1, NF-YC1, NF-YC9 and ABI3). Additional Y2H experiments demonstrate that CIA2 and CIL mainly interact with flowering-control proteins via their N-termini, but preferentially form homo- or hetero-dimers through their C-termini. Moreover, sequence alignment showed that the N-terminal sequences of CIA2, CIL and NF-YA are highly conserved. Therefore, NF-YA in the NF-Y complex could be substituted by CIA2 or CIL. Conclusions We show that Arabidopsis CIA2 and CIL can interact with CO and NF-Y complex, so not only may they contribute to regulate chloroplast function but also to modulate flower development.