The chitinase and chitinase-like proteins: a review of genetic and functional studies in asthma and immune-mediated diseases

Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Oct;9(5):401-8. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3283306533.


Purpose of review: The present review provides an overview of the chitinase and chitinase-like proteins, chitotriosidase (CHIT1), YKL-40, and acid mammalian chitinase, and summarizes the genetic studies of asthma and immune-mediated diseases with polymorphisms in the genes encoding these proteins, CHIT1, CHI3L1, and CHIA, respectively.

Recent findings: Polymorphisms in the CHIT1, CHIA, and CHI3L1 genes influence chitotriosidase enzyme activity, acid mammalian chitinase activity, and YKL-40 levels, respectively. Regulatory SNPs in CHI3L1 were also associated with asthma, atopy, and immune-mediated diseases, and nonsynonymous SNPs in CHIA were associated with asthma. No CHIT1 polymorphisms, including a common nonfunctional 24-bp duplication allele, have been associated with asthma.

Summary: These genes represent novel asthma susceptibility genes. Variations in CHI3L1 and CHIA have been associated with asthma risk. Polymorphisms in CHIT1 have not yet been associated with asthma, but few studies have been reported. Given that chitotriosidase is the major chitinase in the airways and a common nonfunctional allele is present in many populations, additional studies of this gene are warranted. Lastly, studies of all three genes need to be conducted in populations of diverse ancestries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines
  • Asthma / enzymology*
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / genetics*
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Chitinase-3-Like Protein 1
  • Chitinases / genetics
  • Chitinases / immunology*
  • Chitinases / metabolism
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetics, Population
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Glycoproteins / immunology*
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Hexosaminidases / genetics
  • Hexosaminidases / immunology*
  • Hexosaminidases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lectins / genetics
  • Lectins / immunology*
  • Lectins / metabolism
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • Adipokines
  • CHI3L1 protein, human
  • Chitinase-3-Like Protein 1
  • Glycoproteins
  • Lectins
  • Hexosaminidases
  • chitotriosidase
  • CHIA protein, human
  • Chitinases