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SEX4, starch and phosphorylation
Date:6/25/2008

e long chains of connected glucose molecules, but amylopectin is also highly branched and forms a tree-like structure. The branches are then packed so that double helices can form between the chains, which are arranged into concentric layers forming semi-crystalline starch granules. This exquisite structure is extremely stable to enzyme activity and can thus be stored by the plant for later use. However, when needed, starch must be broken down to its component sugars for export to the rest of the plant. It appears that a number of proteins are major players debranching enzymes, glucanotransferases and amylases, among others-- and that in leaves, their actions are finely tuned to the diurnal changes in photosynthesis and the circadian rhythms of the plant.

Some of the new proteins that have been identified by Dr. Zeeman and other researchers in the field act as glucan kinases and phosphatases, that is, they place and remove phosphate groups on the starch molecules. Among these proteins are glucan water dikinase (GWD), phosphoglucan water dikinase (PWD) and SEX4. It is thought that GWD and PWD act in concert to place phosphate groups on starch molecules. The highly charged phosphate group may act as a wedge, disrupting the semi-crystalline packing in the starch and allowing degradative enzymes access to the glucose chains and branches. SEX4 then removes the phosphate groups. Although the exact mechanisms of how these proteins coordinate starch metabolism are still unknown, the importance of phosphate groups in the process is now well established. Mutants of all of these proteins result in plants with an excess of undigested starch.

Sequencing analyses have shown that GWD is conserved over many plant taxa, and proteins similar to SEX4 have been found in other plant species, including rice, maize, and tomato. The amylopectins of leaf starches in different plant species have also been found to be decorated with phosphate groups. Studies of A
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Contact: Dr. Samuel Zeeman
41-446-328-275
American Society of Plant Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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