Evolution and phylogenetic relationships of chitin synthases from yeasts and fungi

FEMS Yeast Res. 2002 Jan;1(4):247-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1567-1364.2002.tb00042.x.


Chitin, the structural component that provides rigidity to the cell wall of fungi is the product of chitin synthases (Chs). These enzymes are not restricted to fungi, but are amply distributed in four of the five eukaryotic 'crown kingdoms'. Dendrograms obtained by multiple alignment of Chs revealed that fungal enzymes can be classified into two divisions that branch into at least five classes, independent of fungal divergence. In contrast, oomycetes and animals each possess a single family of Chs. These results suggest that Chs originated as a branch of beta-glycosyl-transferases, once the kingdom Plantae split from the evolutionary line of eukaryotes. The existence of a single class of Chs in animals and Stramenopiles, against the multiple families in fungi, reveals that Chs diversification occurred after fungi departed from these kingdoms, but before separation of fungal groups. Accordingly, each fungal taxon contains members with enzymes belonging to different divisions and classes. Multiple alignment revealed the conservation of specific motifs characteristic of class, division and kingdom, but the strict conservation of only three motifs QXXEY, EDRXL and QXRRW, and seven isolated amino acids in the core region of all Chs. Determination of different structural features in this region of Chs brought to light a noticeable conservation of secondary structure in the proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Chitin Synthase / chemistry
  • Chitin Synthase / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Fungi / enzymology*
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny*


  • Chitin Synthase