Comparison of the protein sequences deduced from the cDNAs of maize granule-bound starch synthase, Escherichia coli glycogen synthase, and maize starch synthase I (SSI) reveals that maize SSI contains an N-terminal extension of 93 amino acids. In order to study the properties of maize SSI and to understand the functions of the maize SSI N-terminal extension, the gene coding for full-length SSI (SSI-1) and genes coding for N-terminally truncated SSI (SSI-2 and SSI-3) were individually expressed in E. coli. Here we describe for the first time the purification of a higher plant starch synthase to apparent homogeneity. Its kinetic properties were therefore studied in the absence of interfering amylolytic enzymes. The specific activities of the purified SSI-1, SSI-2, and SSI-3 were 22.5, 33.4, and 26.3 micromol Glc/min/mg of protein, respectively, which are eight times higher than those of partially purified SSI from developing maize endosperm. The full-length recombinant enzyme SSI-1 exhibited properties similar to those of the enzyme from maize endosperm. As observed for native maize enzyme, recombinant SSI-1 exhibited "unprimed" activity without added primer in the presence of 0.5 M citrate. Our results have clearly indicated that the catalytic center of SSI is not located in its N-terminal extension. However, N-terminal truncation decreased the enzyme affinity for amylopectin, with the Km for amylopectin of the truncated SSI-3 being about 60-90% higher than that of the full-length SSI-1. These results suggest that the N-terminal extension in SSI may not be directly involved in enzyme catalysis, but may instead regulate the enzyme binding of alpha-glucans. Additionally, the N-terminal extension may play a role in determining the localization of SSI to specific portions of the starch granule or it may regulate its interactions with other enzymes involved in starch synthesis.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.