Acetolactate Synthase Activity in Developing Maize (Zea mays L.) Kernels


Acetolactate synthase (EC activity was examined in maize (Zea mays L.) endosperm and embryos as a function of kernel development. When assayed using unpurified homogenates, embryo acetolactate synthase activity appeared less sensitive to inhibition by leucine + valine and by the imidazolinone herbicide imazapyr than endosperm acetolactate synthase activity. Evidence is presented to show that pyruvate decarboxylase contributes to apparent acetolactate synthase activity in crude embryo extracts and a modification of the acetolactate synthase assay is proposed to correct for the presence of pyruvate decarboxylase in unpurified plant homogenates. Endosperm acetolactate synthase activity increased rapidly during early kernel development, reaching a maximum of 3 micromoles acetoin per hour per endosperm at 25 days after pollination. In contrast, embryo activity was low in young kernels and steadily increased throughout development to a maximum activity of 0.24 micromole per hour per embryo by 45 days after pollination. The sensitivity of both endosperm and embryo acetolactate synthase activities to feedback inhibition by leucine + valine did not change during kernel development. The results are compared to those found for other enzymes of nitrogen metabolism and discussed with respect to the potential roles of the embryo and endosperm in providing amino acids for storage protein synthesis.

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