AMY1A (amylase, alpha 1A)

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Human Uniqueness Compared to "Great Apes": 
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Alpha amylase 1 (AMY1) is a salivary endo-enzyme responsible for hydrolysis of α-1,4 glycosidic linkages in starch to produce maltose, maltriose, and other oligosaccharides. It is the most abundant protein in human saliva but is also highly variable. This variability has been linked to changes in copy number variation with individuals with higher copy number trending to have higher protein levels. AMY1 shows high copy number variability with measured numbers anywhere from 2-15 copies and individuals from populations that consume a high starch diet tend to have higher copy number than those who do not. High starch consumption societies may have been subject to positive selection for higher copy numbers as higher AMY1 levels aid in more complete digestion of starchy foods. Chimps, Bonobos, and Orangutans show no evidence of amplified AMY1 copy number which likely is the result of their low starch diets. It has been hypothesized that individuals with more copies of AMY1 may be protected against death from Diarrheal disease and intestinal disease, as well as show dietary preference for high starch foods.


Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Probable Appearance: 
200 thousand years ago
Definite Appearance: 
6,000 thousand years ago
Related MOCA Topics
Referenced By:
Topic Certainty
Underground Plant Food Consumption Speculative
Genetics Topic Attributes
Gene symbols follow the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee standard.
Gene Symbol Type of Human-Specific Changes
AMY1A,AMY1B;AMY1C Copy Number Changes, Polymorphism


  1. The physiologic and phenotypic significance of variation in human amylase gene copy number, Atkinson, Fiona S., Hancock Dale, Petocz Peter, and Brand-Miller Jennie C. , The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2018/10/01, Volume 108, Issue 4, p.737 - 748, (2018)
  2. THE IMPORTANCE OF DIETARY CARBOHYDRATE IN HUMAN EVOLUTION., Hardy, Karen, Brand-Miller Jennie, Brown Katherine D., Thomas Mark G., and Copeland Les , Q Rev Biol, 2015 Sep, Volume 90, Issue 3, p.251-68, (2015)
  3. Insights into hominin phenotypic and dietary evolution from ancient DNA sequence data, Perry, G., Kistler L., Kelaita M., and Sams A. , Journal of Human Evolution, 02/2015, Volume 79, p.55-63, (2015)
  4. Diversity of human copy number variation and multicopy genes., Sudmant, Peter H., Kitzman Jacob O., Antonacci Francesca, Alkan Can, Malig Maika, Tsalenko Anya, Sampas Nick, Bruhn Laurakay, Shendure Jay, and Eichler Evan E. , Science, 10/2010, Volume 330, Issue 6004, p.641-6, (2010)
  5. Individual differences in AMY1 gene copy number, salivary α-amylase levels, and the perception of oral starch., Mandel, Abigail L., Gachons Catherine Peyrot des, Plank Kimberly L., Alarcon Suzanne, and Breslin Paul A. S. , PLoS One, 2010, Volume 5, Issue 10, p.e13352, (2010)
  6. Diet and the evolution of human amylase gene copy number variation., Perry, George H., Dominy Nathaniel J., Claw Katrina G., Lee Arthur S., Fiegler Heike, Redon Richard, Werner John, Villanea Fernando A., Mountain Joanna L., Misra Rajeev, et al. , Nat Genet, 2007 Oct, Volume 39, Issue 10, p.1256-60, (2007)