High affinity for starch granules of certain amylolytic enzymes is mediated by a separate starch binding domain (SBD). In Aspergillus niger glucoamylase (GA-I), a 70 amino acid O-glycosylated peptide linker connects SBD with the catalytic domain. A gene was constructed to encode barley alpha-amylase 1 (AMY1) fused C-terminally to this SBD via a 37 residue GA-I linker segment. AMY1-SBD was expressed in A. niger, secreted using the AMY1 signal sequence at 25 mg x L(-1) and purified in 50% yield. AMY1-SBD contained 23% carbohydrate and consisted of correctly N-terminally processed multiple forms of isoelectric points in the range 4.1-5.2. Activity and apparent affinity of AMY1-SBD (50 nM) for barley starch granules of 0.034 U x nmol(-1) and K(d) = 0.13 mg x mL(-1), respectively, were both improved with respect to the values 0.015 U x nmol(-1) and 0.67 mg x mL(-1) for rAMY1 (recombinant AMY1 produced in A. niger). AMY1-SBD showed a 2-fold increased activity for soluble starch at low (0.5%) but not at high (1%) concentration. AMY1-SBD hydrolysed amylose DP440 with an increased degree of multiple attack of 3 compared to 1.9 for rAMY1. Remarkably, at low concentration (2 nM), AMY1-SBD hydrolysed barley starch granules 15-fold faster than rAMY1, while higher amounts of AMY-SBD caused molecular overcrowding of the starch granule surface.