Plants metabolize transitory starch by precisely coordinated plastidial and cytosolic processes. The latter appear to include the action of water-soluble heteroglycans (SHGin) whose monosaccharide pattern is similar to that of apoplastic glycans (SHGex) but, unlike SHGex, SHGin strongly interacts with glucosyl transferases. In this study, we analyzed starch metabolism using mesophyll protoplasts from wild-type plants and two knock-out mutants [deficient in the cytosolic transglucosidase, disproportionating isoenzyme 2 (DPE2) or the plastidial phosphoglucomutase (PGM1)] from Arabidopsis thaliana. Protoplasts prelabeled by photosynthetic 14CO2 fixation were transferred to an unlabeled medium and were darkened or illuminated. Carbon transitions from the Calvin cycle or from starch to both SHGin and SHGex were analyzed. In illuminated protoplasts, starch turn-over was undetectable but darkened protoplasts continuously degraded starch. During illumination, neither the total 14C content nor the labeling patterns of the sugar residues of SHGin were significantly altered but both the total amount and the labeling of the constituents of SHGex increased with time. In darkened protoplasts, the 14C-content of most of the sugar residues of SHGin transiently and strongly increased and then declined. This effect was not observed in any SHGex constituent. In darkened DPE2-deficient protoplasts, none of the SHGin constituents exhibited an essential transient increase in labeling. In contrast, some residues of SHGin from the PGM1 mutant exhibited a transient increase in label but this effect significantly differed from that of the wild type. Two conclusions are reached: first, SHGin and SHGex exert different metabolic functions and second, SHGin is directly involved in starch degradation.