AskDefine | Define amylase

Dictionary Definition

amylase n : any of a group of proteins found in saliva and pancreatic juice and parts of plants; help convert starch to sugar

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of a class of digestive enzymes, present in saliva, that break down complex carbohydrates such as starch into simpler sugars such as glucose.


enzyme, present in saliva, that breaks down carbohydrates such as starch
  • Chinese: 淀粉酶
  • Czech: amyláza
  • Danish: amylase
  • Dutch: amylase
  • German: Amylase
  • Estonian: amülaas
  • Esperanto: amelazo
  • Finnish: amylaasi
  • French: amylase
  • Italian: alfa-amilasi
  • Hebrew: עמילאז
  • Japanese: アミラーゼ
  • Norwegian: amylase
  • Polish: amylaza
  • Portuguese: amílase
  • Russian: амилаза
  • Swedish: amylas
  • Ukrainian: амілаза

Extensive Definition

Amylase is the name given to glycoside hydrolase enzymes that break down starch into maltose molecules. It is mainly found in the saliva, which is the reason why we can feel the sweetness when eating rice (contains glucose). However, the glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestines, not in the mouth. Although the amylases are designated by different Greek letters, they all act on α-1,4-glycosidic bonds. Under the original name of diastase, amylase was the first enzyme to be found and isolated (by Anselme Payen in 1833).



() (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.
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)


() (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.


() (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 into bread improver thereby making the bread making process faster and more practical for commercial use.
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.
An inhibitor of alpha-amylase called phaseolamin has been tested as a potential diet aid.


External links

amylase in Czech: Amyláza
amylase in Danish: Amylase
amylase in German: Amylase
amylase in Estonian: Amülaas
amylase in Spanish: Amilasa
amylase in Esperanto: Amelazo
amylase in French: Amylase
amylase in Italian: Alfa-amilasi
amylase in Hebrew: עמילאז
amylase in Dutch: Amylase
amylase in Japanese: アミラーゼ
amylase in Norwegian: Amylase
amylase in Occitan (post 1500): Amilasa
amylase in Polish: Amylaza
amylase in Portuguese: Amilase
amylase in Simple English: Amylase
amylase in Finnish: Amylaasi
amylase in Swedish: Amylas
amylase in Ukrainian: Амілаза
amylase in Chinese: 淀粉酶
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