What is alpha glucosidase?

Alpha-glucosidase is an enzyme that occurs in various subforms in all cells of the body. It is not necessarily the case that every sub-form is present in every cell. The task of alpha-glucosidase is the splitting of alpha-glycosidic bonds. This type of bond refers to a form of linkage between individual sugar molecules. Individual glucose molecules can be linked to form large chains of several thousand sugars, so-called polysaccharides, which are broken down by alpha-glucosidase.

Task and function

Each sub-form of alpha-glucosidase differs in the place of occurrence. A widespread form is maltase glucoamylase, which is produced in the superficial cells of the intestinal mucosa, the kidneys and some immune cells. In addition to this form, there are other subforms in the tissues mentioned.

Like any alpha-glucosidase, maltase-glucosidase also cleaves alpha-glycosidic bonds. However, they are preferably dissolved in disaccharides, sugar chains consisting of two individual sugar molecules. By separating the disaccharide into two monosaccharides, it is possible to absorb the individual sugar molecules into the body via the mucous membrane of the small intestine.

The enzyme thus plays an important role in the digestion of sugars. In the kidney, disaccharides, which are filtered out of the blood via the kidney and are then found in the primary urine, a precursor of the enema, are also preferentially split into individual monosaccharides, which can be reabsorbed into the body by the kidney cells. This is an important process to prevent high energy loss through excretion of sugar via the urine.

Another sub-form of alpha-glucosidases is found in every cell in the lysosomes. Lysosomes are cell organelles that break down substances that accumulate in the cells and cannot be utilised. The subform occurring here is called lysosomal alpha-glucosidase or acid maltase, analogous to the cell organelle.

Its task is to break down chains of sugars that the body cannot use into monosaccharides so that they can be more easily processed and excreted. There is also a sub-form of alpha-glucosidase in the liver, which is essential for the body’s energy metabolism. This form is responsible, among other things, for the breakdown of glycogen.

Glycogen is a polysaccharide that consists of tens of thousands of molecules of glucose and is the storage form of glucose in the body. When the body needs energy, be it through hunger or sporting activity, the energy storage is broken down by alpha-glucosidases, so that the necessary performance can still be provided. The same subunit of alpha-glucosidase that is found in the liver is also found in the muscles. Here, too, there is a glycogen store that can be broken down as required. However, the released glucose molecules are not made available to the body, but serve solely as a source of energy for the muscles.