Lysine biosynthesis has been extensively studied and the regulatory enzymes characterized in some of the most important crop plants, however, much less is known about the lysine degradation pathway. Lysine 2-oxoglutarate reductase (LOR) and saccharopine dehydrogenase (SDH) have recently been partially purified and characterized from plants, and have been shown to exist as a single bifunctional polypeptide. We have further characterized these enzymes from rice endosperm in relation to Ca2+ and ionic strength modulation. Optimum pH values of 7.0 and 8.0 were obtained for LOR and SDH, respectively. The LOR domain of the polypeptide was modulated by Ca2+ and ionic strength, whereas the SDH domain was not. It would appear that the modulation by Ca2+ and ionic strength of LOR is a common feature among plant LOR enzymes. S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) did not produce any significant effect on either enzyme activity, indicating that it only plays a role in the regulation of lysine biosynthesis. The effect of S-2-aminoethyl- l-cysteine (AEC) as both a substrate and an inhibitor of LOR activity was also tested. AEC was shown to partially substitute for lysine as a substrate for LOR, but was also able to inhibit LOR activity, possibly competing with lysine at the active site. The higher Km for AEC compared to lysine may reflect a lower binding affinity for AEC.