The reduction of zein synthesis in the maize (Zea mays L.) opaque-2 mutant is associated with an increased percentage of lysine in the endosperm protein. When expressed on an endosperm basis, we found that W64A opaque-2 contains 490 micrograms of lysine compared with 350 micrograms in W64A normal. SDS-PAGE analysis of endosperm proteins indicated that several non-zein proteins are more abundant in the mutant than in normal genotype. To determine the subcellular origin of these proteins, we separated an endosperm homogenate from developing kernels by sucrose density gradient centrifugation and used marker enzyme assays and immunoblot analyses to identify cellular components. Amino acid analysis of proteins in the gradient fractions showed that the majority of the lysine occurs in soluble proteins at the top of the gradient. To identify these proteins, we prepared a complex antiserum against the entire soluble protein fraction and used it to immunoscreen an endosperm cDNA expression library. Sequence analysis of clones identified mRNAs involved in carbohydrate metabolism, amino acid biosynthesis, and protein synthesis. RNA dot blot hybridization analysis with these clones revealed significant variation in the levels of transcripts between normal and opaque-2 endosperm, but we identified several mRNAs that are elevated in opaque-2 and that may encode proteins responsible for the enhanced lysine content.