The Maltase Involved in Starch Metabolism in Barley Endosperm Is Encoded by a Single Gene.

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During germination and early seedling growth of barley (Hordeum vulgare), maltase is responsible for the conversion of maltose produced by starch degradation in the endosperm to glucose for seedling growth. Despite the potential relevance of this enzyme for malting and the production of alcoholic beverages, neither the nature nor the role of maltase is fully understood. Although only one gene encoding maltase has been identified with certainty, there is evidence for the existence of other genes and for multiple forms of the enzyme. It has been proposed that maltase may be involved directly in starch granule degradation as well as in maltose hydrolysis. The aim of our work was to discover the nature of maltase in barley endosperm. We used ion exchange chromatography to fractionate maltase activity from endosperm of young seedlings, and we partially purified activity for protein identification. We compared maltase activity in wild-type barley and transgenic lines with reduced expression of the previously-characterised maltase gene Agl97, and we used genomic and transcriptomic information to search for further maltase genes. We show that all of the maltase activity in the barley endosperm can be accounted for by a single gene, Agl97. Multiple forms of the enzyme most likely arise from proteolysis and other post-translational modifications.