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.