Amylase is an enzyme that breaks starch down into sugar. Amylase is present in human saliva, where it begins the chemical process of digestion. Foods that contain much starch but little sugar, such as rice and potato, taste slightly sweet as they are chewed because amylase turns some of their starch into sugar in the mouth. The pancreas also makes amylase (alpha amylase) to break down dietary starch into di- and trisaccharides which are converted by other enzymes to glucose to supply the body with energy. Plants and some bacteria also produce amylase. As "diastase", amylase was the first enzyme to be discovered and isolated (by Anselme Payen in 1833).Fact|date=June 2008 Specific amylase proteins are designated by different Greek letters. All amylases are glycoside hydrolases and act on α-1,4-glycosidic bonds.



(EC number| ) (CAS# 9014-71-5) (alternate names: 1,4-α-D-glucan glucanohydrolase; glycogenase) The α-amylases are calcium metalloenzymes, completely unable to function in the absence of calcium. By acting at random locations along the starch chain, α-amylase breaks down long-chain carbohydrates, ultimately yielding maltotriose and maltose from amylose, or maltose, glucose and "limit dextrin" from amylopectin. Because it can act anywhere on the substrate, α-amylase tends to be faster-acting than β-amylase. In animals, it is a major digestive enzyme and its optimum pH is 6.7-7.0. [ [ Effects of pH (Introduction to Enzymes) ] ]

In human physiology, both the salivary and pancreatic amylases are α-Amylases. They are discussed in much more detail at alpha-Amylase.

Also found in plants (barley) , fungi (ascomycetes and basidiomycetes) and bacteria (Bacillus).


(EC number| ) (alternate names: 1,4-α-D-glucan maltohydrolase; glycogenase; saccharogen amylase)Another form of amylase, β-amylase is also synthesized by bacteria, fungi, and plants. Working from the non-reducing end, β-amylase catalyzes the hydrolysis of the second α-1,4 glycosidic bond, cleaving off two glucose units (maltose) at a time. During the ripening of fruit, β-amylase breaks starch into sugar, resulting in the sweet flavor of ripe fruit. Both are present in seeds; β-amylase is present prior to germination, whereas α-amylase and proteases appear once germination has begun. Cereal grain amylase is key to the production of malt. Many microbes also produce amylase to degrade extracellular starches. Animal tissues do not contain β-amylase, although it may be present in microrganisms contained within the digestive tract.


(EC number| ) (alternative names: Glucan 1,4-α-glucosidase; amyloglucosidase; Exo-1,4-α-glucosidase; glucoamylase; lysosomal α-glucosidase; 1,4-α-D-glucan glucohydrolase)In addition to cleaving the last α(1-4)glycosidic linkages at the nonreducing end of amylose and amylopectin, yielding glucose, γ-amylase will cleave α(1-6) glycosidic linkages. Unlike the other forms of amylase, γ-amylase is most efficient in acidic environments and has an optimum pH of 3


Amylase enzymes are used extensively in bread making to break down complex sugars such as starch (found in flour) into simple sugars. Yeast then feeds on these simple sugars and converts it into the waste products of alcohol and CO2. This imparts flavour and causes the bread to rise. While Amylase enzymes are found naturally in yeast cells, it takes time for the yeast to produce enough of these enzymes to break down significant quantities of starch in the bread. This is the reason for long fermented doughs such as sour dough. Modern bread making techniques have included amylase enzymes (often in the form of malted barley) into bread improver thereby making the bread making process faster and more practical for commercial use. [cite book
last = Maton
first = Anthea
authorlink =
coauthors = Jean Hopkins, Charles William McLaughlin, Susan Johnson, Maryanna Quon Warner, David LaHart, Jill D. Wright
title = Human Biology and Health
publisher = Prentice Hall
year = 1993
location = Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0-13-981176-1

Bacilliary amylase is also used in detergents to dissolve starches from fabrics.

Workers in factories that work with amylase for any of the above uses are at increased risk of occupational asthma. 5-9% of bakers have a positive skin test, and a fourth to a third of bakers with breathing problems are hypersensitive to amylase. [Mapp CE. Agents, old and new, causing occupational asthma. "Occup Environ Med" 2001;58:354-60. PMID 11303086.]

An inhibitor of alpha-amylase called phaseolamin has been tested as a potential diet aid. [cite journal
title=Blocking carbohydrate absorption and weight loss: a clinical trial using Phase 2 brand proprietary fractionated white bean extract.| url=
journal=Alternative medicine review|month=March | year=2004|author=Udani J, Hardy M, Madsen DC.


External links

* [ Molecule of the month] February 2006 at the Protein Data Bank.
* [ Nutrition Sciences 101] at University of Arizona.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • amylase — [ amilaz ] n. f. • 1875; du lat. amylum et ase ♦ Chim., biol. Enzyme provoquant l hydrolyse de l amidon en maltose, puis en glucose, que l on rencontre dans la salive, le suc pancréatique, et dans divers micro organismes et végétaux. ⇒ diastase.… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • amylase — (n.) enzyme which brings about the hydrolysis of starch, 1893, from AMYL (Cf. amyl) + chemical suffix ASE (Cf. ase) …   Etymology dictionary

  • amylase — [am′ə lās΄] n. [ AMYL(O) + ASE] an enzyme that helps change starch into sugar: it is found in saliva, pancreatic juice, etc.: see also DIASTASE, AMYLOPSIN …   English World dictionary

  • Amylase — Amylasen sind Enzyme, die bei den meisten Lebewesen vorkommen, und die Polysaccharide abbauen. Heutzutage wird α Amylase auch gentechnisch hergestellt. [1] Ihre Wirkung besteht darin, dass sie Polysaccharide (z. B. Stärke) an den… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Amylase — L amylase (EC est une enzyme digestive classée comme saccharidase (enzyme qui brise les polysaccharides). C est surtout un constituant du suc pancréatique et de la salive, requis pour le catabolisme des glucides à longue chaîne (comme l… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • amylase — /am euh lays , layz /, n. Biochem. 1. any of a widely distributed class of enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of starch, glycogen, and related polysaccharides to oligosaccharides, maltose, or glucose. 2. any of several digestive enzymes that… …   Universalium

  • Amylase — Amy|la|se 〈f. 19; Chem.〉 Enzym, das Stärke zu Maltose (Malzzucker) abbaut; Sy Diastase * * * A|my|la|se [von Amyl (2) u. ↑ ase], die; , n; Syn.: Diastase: Stärke (vgl. Amylose u. Amylopektin), Glykogen u. a. Glucane selektiv spaltende ↑… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • amylase — /ˈæməleɪz/ (say amuhlayz) noun any of several enzymes, occurring in digestive juices, saliva, and plants which hydrolyse starches to glucose and maltose; the main types are alpha amylase and beta amylase. {amyl + ase} …   Australian English dictionary

  • amylase — One of a group of amylolytic enzymes that cleave starch, glycogen, and related 1,4 α glucans. * * * am·y·lase am ə .lās, .lāz n any of a group of enzymes (as amylopsin) that catalyze the hydrolysis of starch and glycogen or their intermediate… …   Medical dictionary

  • amylase —    An enzyme found in plant and animal tissue which promotes the conversion of starch and glycogen into maltose. In forensics, the Phadebas test is used to detect the enzyme amylase which found in saliva …   Forensic science glossary

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