Insight into the redox regulation of the phosphoglucan phosphatase SEX4 involved in starch degradation.
Starch is the major carbohydrate reserve in plants, and is degraded for growth at night. Starch breakdown requires reversible glucan phosphorylation at the granule surface by novel dikinases and phosphatases. The dual-specificity phosphatase starch excess 4 (SEX4) is required for glucan desphosphorylation; however, regulation of the enzymatic activity of SEX4 is not well understood. We show that SEX4 switches between reduced (active) and oxidized (inactive) states, suggesting that SEX4 is redox-regulated. Although only partial reactivation of SEX4 was achieved using artificial reductants (e.g. dithiothreitol), use of numerous chloroplastic thioredoxins recovered activity completely, suggesting that thioredoxins could reduce SEX4 in vivo. Analysis of peptides from oxidized and reduced SEX4 identified a disulfide linkage between the catalytic cysteine at position 198 (Cys198) and the cysteine at position 130 (Cys130) within the phosphatase domain. The position of these cysteines was structurally analogous to that for known redox-regulated dual-specificity phosphatases, suggesting a common mechanism of reversible oxidation amongst these phosphatases. Mutation of Cys130 renders SEX4 more sensitive to oxidative inactivation and less responsive to reductive reactivation. Together, these results provide the first biochemical evidence for a redox-dependent structural switch that regulates SEX4 activity, which represents the first plant phosphatase known to undergo reversible oxidation via disulfide bond formation like its mammalian counterparts.