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Plant Cell. 1996 Dec;8(12):2335-45.

The maize gamma-zein sequesters alpha-zein and stabilizes its accumulation in protein bodies of transgenic tobacco endosperm.

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Department of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson 85721, USA.


Zeins are seed storage proteins that form accretions called protein bodies in the rough endoplasmic reticulum of maize endosperm cells. Four types of zeins, alpha, beta, gamma, and delta, aggregate in a distinctive spatial pattern within the protein body. We created transgenic tobacco plants expressing alpha-zein, gamma-zein, or both to examine the interactions between these proteins leading to the formation of protein bodies in the endosperm. Whereas gamma-zein accumulated in seeds of these plants, stable accumulation of alpha-zein required simultaneous synthesis of gamma-zein. The zein proteins formed accretions in the endoplasmic reticulum similar to those in maize endosperm. Protein bodies were also found in protein storage vacuoles. The accumulation of both types of zeins peaked early in development and declined during maturation. Even in the presence of gamma-zein, there was a turnover of alpha-zein, suggesting that the interaction between the two proteins might be transitory. We suggest that gamma-zein plays an important role in protein body formation and demonstrate the utility of tobacco for studying interactions between different zeins.

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