The sugary-2 mutation in maize (Zea mays L.) is a result of the loss of catalytic activity of the endosperm-specific SS (starch synthase) IIa isoform causing major alterations to amylopectin architecture. The present study reports a biochemical and molecular analysis of an allelic variant of the sugary-2 mutation expressing a catalytically inactive form of SSIIa and sheds new light on its central role in protein–protein interactions and determination of the starch granule proteome. The mutant SSIIa revealed two amino acid substitutions, one being a highly conserved residue (Gly522→Arg) responsible for the loss of catalytic activity and the inability of the mutant SSIIa to bind to starch. Analysis of protein–protein interactions in sugary-2 amyloplasts revealed the same trimeric assembly of soluble SSI, SSIIa and SBE (starch-branching enzyme) IIb found in wild-type amyloplasts, but with greatly reduced activities of SSI and SBEIIb. Chemical cross-linking studies demonstrated that SSIIa is at the core of the complex, interacting with SSI and SBEIIb, which do not interact directly with each other. The sugary-2 mutant starch granules were devoid of amylopectin-synthesizing enzymes, despite the fact that the respective affinities of SSI and SBEIIb from sugary-2 for amylopectin were the same as observed in wild-type. The data support a model whereby granule-bound proteins involved in amylopectin synthesis are partitioned into the starch granule as a result of their association within protein complexes, and that SSIIa plays a crucial role in trafficking SSI and SBEIIb into the granule matrix.

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