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Open Access Research article

Cloning, characterisation and comparative analysis of a starch synthase IV gene in wheat: functional and evolutionary implications

Marina Leterrier1, Lynn D Holappa13, Karen E Broglie2 and Diane M Beckles1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant Sciences, One Peter Shield Avenue, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8617, USA

2 DuPont-Pioneer, Crop Genetics Research, Experimental Station, Wilmington, DE 19808, USA

3 Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 16 Divinity Ave, Cambridge MA 02138, USA

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:98  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-98

Published: 30 September 2008

Abstract

Background

Starch is of great importance to humans as a food and biomaterial, and the amount and structure of starch made in plants is determined in part by starch synthase (SS) activity. Five SS isoforms, SSI, II, III, IV and Granule Bound SSI, have been identified, each with a unique catalytic role in starch synthesis. The basic mode of action of SSs is known; however our knowledge of several aspects of SS enzymology at the structural and mechanistic level is incomplete. To gain a better understanding of the differences in SS sequences that underscore their specificity, the previously uncharacterised SSIVb from wheat was cloned and extensive bioinformatics analyses of this and other SSs sequences were done.

Results

The wheat SSIV cDNA is most similar to rice SSIVb with which it shows synteny and shares a similar exon-intron arrangement. The wheat SSIVb gene was preferentially expressed in leaf and was not regulated by a circadian clock. Phylogenetic analysis showed that in plants, SSIV is closely related to SSIII, while SSI, SSII and Granule Bound SSI clustered together and distinctions between the two groups can be made at the genetic level and included chromosomal location and intron conservation. Further, identified differences at the amino acid level in their glycosyltransferase domains, predicted secondary structures, global conformations and conserved residues might be indicative of intragroup functional associations.

Conclusion

Based on bioinformatics analysis of the catalytic region of 36 SSs and 3 glycogen synthases (GSs), it is suggested that the valine residue in the highly conserved K-X-G-G-L motif in SSIII and SSIV may be a determining feature of primer specificity of these SSs as compared to GBSSI, SSI and SSII. In GBSSI, the Ile485 residue may partially explain that enzyme's unique catalytic features. The flexible 380s Loop in the starch catalytic domain may be important in defining the specificity of action for each different SS and the G-X-G in motif VI could define SSIV and SSIII action particularly.