This review describes recent progress in discovering the pathway of starch breakdown in leaves. The synthesis of starch from photo-assimilated carbon is one of the major biochemical fluxes in plants. Despite this, the pathway through which this starch is remobilized has not been defined. Numerous enzymes that could participate in starch breakdown are present in leaves, but until recently, the relative importance of each had not been determined. Through studies using model species such as Arabidopsis and potato, significant progress has now been made in determining the roles of known enzymes, and in the discovery of novel proteins necessary for breakdown. These data allow a tentative pathway for starch breakdown to be mapped out, involving hydrolysis primarily to maltose and subsequent maltose export to the cytosol. This provides a framework for complete discovery of the pathway and for the analysis of its regulation. (C) New Phytologist (2004).