Tissues of wheat (Triticum aestivum L., var. Star) exhibit three starch phosphorylase activity forms resolved by non-denaturing polyacrylamide gel affinity electrophoresis (P1, P2 and P3). Compartmentation analysis of young leaf tissues showed that P3 is plastidic, whereas P1 and P2 are cytosolic. P1 exhibits a strong binding affinity to immobilized glycogen upon electrophoresis, whereas P2 and the chloroplastic P3 do not. Cytosolic leaf phosphorylase was purified to homogeneity by affinity chromatography. The single polypeptide product constituted both the P1 and P2 activity forms. Probes for the detection of phosphorylase transcripts were derived from cDNA sequences of cytosolic and plastidic phosphorylases, and these-together with activity assays and a cytosolic phosphorylase-specific antiserum-were used to monitor phosphorylase expression in leaves and seeds. Mature leaves contained only plastidic phosphorylase, which was also strongly evident in the endosperm of developing seeds at the onset of reserve starch accumulation. Germinating seeds contained only cytosolic phosphorylase, which was restricted to the embryo. Plastidic phosphorylase thus appears to be associated with transitory leaf starch metabolism and with the initiation of seed endosperm reserve starch accumulation, but it plays no role in the degradation of the reserve starch. Cytosolic phosphorylase may be involved in the processing of incoming carbohydrate during rapid tissue growth.