August 1, 2023

α-amylase enzyme: Functions and industrial applications

Amylases hold a pivotal role as essential enzymes across various industrial domains. These enzymes degrade starch molecules into chains comprising glucose units. Their potential applications encompass a broad spectrum of industries, ranging from food, fermentation, to pharmaceuticals.

Three primary categories of amylase enzymes exist: α-, β-, and γ-amylase, each with distinct targets within the carbohydrate molecule. α-amylase is widely present in diverse living organisms.

Referred to as 1,4-α-d-glucan glucohydrolase, α-Amylase operates as an endo-acting glucanase within the glycoside hydrolase family 13 (GH13).

Within the digestive systems of humans and numerous other mammals, the salivary glands produce an α-amylase called ptyalin, while the pancreas secretes pancreatic amylase into the small intestine.

Ptyalin, a variation of salivary amylase, is discharged into the mouth and aids in starch digestion by breaking it down into maltose, isomaltose, and other minor dextrins referred to as limit dextrins.

Even though food spends only a brief moment in the mouth, ptyalin's effects within the stomach can endure for several hours, until the food blends with stomach secretions, whose high acidity deactivates ptyalin.

Beyond its primary role in hydrolyzing starch and glycogen, it also contributes to bacterial defense. Reduced salivary α-amylase activity correlates with an increased risk of oral infections. Moreover, heightened salivary α-amylase activity during periods of stress suggests it can serve as an indicator of sympathetic activation.

Pancreatic α-amylase serves the purpose of digesting starch to acquire energy. It constitutes the principal component of pancreatic fluid, which enters the duodenum in substantial quantities and at higher protein concentrations. In the presence of a meal in the digestive tract, pancreatic juice, containing a secondary α-amylase, is released into the duodenum. Pancreatic amylase continues the digestion of starch and glycogen within the small intestine, surpassing the production levels of salivary amylase.

In industrial scenarios, α-amylases, in conjunction with γ-amylases, find extensive usage in diverse processes. These encompass the conversion of starch to fructose syrup through saccharification (often in combination with glucoamylase and glucose/xylose isomerase), functioning as anti-staling agents in baking, featuring in laundry detergents, contributing to bioethanol production, and playing a role in paper manufacturing.
α-amylase enzyme: Functions and industrial applications

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