N-acetylglucosamine: production and applications

Mar Drugs. 2010 Sep 15;8(9):2493-516. doi: 10.3390/md8092493.


N-Acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) is a monosaccharide that usually polymerizes linearly through (1,4)-β-linkages. GlcNAc is the monomeric unit of the polymer chitin, the second most abundant carbohydrate after cellulose. In addition to serving as a component of this homogeneous polysaccharide, GlcNAc is also a basic component of hyaluronic acid and keratin sulfate on the cell surface. In this review, we discuss the industrial production of GlcNAc, using chitin as a substrate, by chemical, enzymatic and biotransformation methods. Also, newly developed methods to obtain GlcNAc using glucose as a substrate in genetically modified microorganisms are introduced. Moreover, GlcNAc has generated interest not only as an underutilized resource but also as a new functional material with high potential in various fields. Here we also take a closer look at the current applications of GlcNAc, and several new and cutting edge approaches in this fascinating area are thoroughly discussed.

Keywords: N-acetylglucosamine; carbohydrate; chitin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / chemistry*
  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism
  • Acetylglucosamine / pharmacology*
  • Acetylglucosamine / therapeutic use
  • Chitin / chemistry*
  • Chitin / metabolism
  • Chitinases / metabolism
  • Cosmetics
  • Glucose / chemistry
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / chemistry
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / metabolism
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism


  • Cosmetics
  • Polysaccharides
  • Chitin
  • Chitinases
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid
  • Glucose
  • Acetylglucosamine