Mutations in the maize gene sugary2 ( su2 ) affect starch structure and its resultant physiochemical properties in useful ways, although the gene has not been characterized previously at the molecular level. This study tested the hypothesis that su2 codes for starch synthase IIa (SSIIa). Two independent mutations of the su2 locus, su2-2279 and su2-5178 , were identified in a Mutator -active maize population. The nucleotide sequence of the genomic locus that codes for SSIIa was compared between wild type plants and those homozygous for either novel mutation. Plants bearing su2-2279 invariably contained a Mutator transposon in exon 3 of the SSIIa gene, and su2-5178 mutants always contained a small retrotransposon-like insertion in exon 10. Six allelic su2 (-) mutations conditioned loss or reduction in abundance of the SSIIa protein detected by immunoblot. These data indicate that su2 codes for SSIIa and that deficiency in this isoform is ultimately responsible for the altered physiochemical properties of su2 (-) mutant starches. A specific starch synthase isoform among several identified in soluble endosperm extracts was absent in su2-2279 or su2-5178 mutants, indicating that SSIIa is active in the soluble phase during kernel development. The immediate structural effect of the su2 (-) mutations was shown to be increased abundance of short glucan chains in amylopectin and a proportional decrease in intermediate length chains, similar to the effects of SSII deficiency in other species.