The GH18 family of chitinases: their domain architectures, functions and evolutions

Glycobiology. 2012 Jan;22(1):23-34. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwr092. Epub 2011 Jul 12.


The glycoside hydrolase 18 (GH18) family of chitinases is a multigene family that plays various roles, such as ecdysis, embryonic development, allergic inflammation and so on. Efforts are still needed to reveal their functional diversification in an evolutionary and systematic manner. We collected 85 GH18 genes from eukaryotic representatives. The domain architectures of GH18 proteins were analyzed and several conserved patterns were identified. It was observed that some (11 proteins) GH18 members in Ecdysozoa or fungi possess repeats of catalytic domains and/or chitin-binding domains (ChtBs). The domain repeats are likely to meet requirements for higher efficiency of chitin degradation in chitin-containing species. On the contrary, all vertebrate GH18 proteins contain no more than one catalytic domain or ChtB. The results from homologous analysis, domain architectures, exon arrangements and synteny loci supported two evolutionary paths for the GH18 family. One path experienced gene expansion and contraction several times during evolution, covering most of GH18 members except CHID1 (stabilin-1 interacting partner) and its homologs. Proteins in this path underwent frequent domain gain and loss, as well as domain recombination, that could achieve versatility in function. The other path is comparatively conserved. The CHID1 gene evolved without gene duplication except in Danio rerio. Domain architectures of CHID1 orthologs are all identical. The diverse phylogeny of the GH18 family in arthropod is also presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Chitinases / chemistry*
  • Chitinases / genetics
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Exons
  • Penaeidae / enzymology*
  • Penaeidae / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Sorting Signals
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Repetitive Sequences, Amino Acid
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Protein Sorting Signals
  • Chitinases