The gene encoding the starch debranching enzyme limit dextrinase, LD, from barley (Hordeum vulgare), was isolated from a genomic phage library using a barley cDNA clone as probe. The gene encodes a protein of 904 amino acid residues with a calculated molecular mass of 98.6 kDa. This is in agreement with a value of 105 kDa estimated by SDS-PAGE. The coding sequence is interrupted by 26 introns varying in length from 93 bp to 825 bp. The 27 exons vary in length from 53 bp to 197 bp. Southern blot analysis shows that the limit dextrinase gene is present as a single copy in the barley genome. Gene expression is high during germination and the steady state transcription level reaches a maximum at day 5 of germination. The deduced amino acid sequence corresponds to the protein sequence of limit dextrinase purified from germinating malt, as determined by automated N-terminal sequencing of tryptic fragments coupled with matrix assisted laser desorption mass spectrometry. The sequenced peptide fragments cover 70% of the entire protein sequence, which shows 62% and 77% identity to that of starch debranching enzymes from spinach and rice and 37% identity to Klebsiella pullulanase. Sequence alignment supports the multidomain architecture and identifies both secondary structure elements of the catalytic (beta/alpha)8-barrel substrate, catalytic residues, and specificity associated motifs characteristic of members of the glycoside hydrolase family 13 which cleave alpha-1,6-glucosidic bonds. A remarkable distribution of the secondary structure elements to individual exons is observed.