amylase (ămˈəlāsˌ) [key], enzyme having physiological, commercial, and historical significance, also called diastase. It is found in both plants and animals. Amylase was purified (1835) from malt by Anselme Payen and Jean Persoz. Their work led them to suspect that similar substances, now known as enzymes, might be involved in biochemical processes. Amylase hydrolyzes starch, glycogen, and dextrin to form in all three instances glucose, maltose, and the limit-dextrins. Salivary amylase is known as ptyalin; although humans have this enzyme in their saliva, some mammals, such as horses, dogs, and cats, do not. Ptyalin begins polysaccharide digestion in the mouth; the process is completed in the small intestine by the pancreatic amylase, sometimes called amylopsin. The amylase of malt digests barley starch to the disaccharides that are attacked by yeast in the fermentation process.
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