Fungal chitinases: diversity, mechanistic properties and biotechnological potential

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2012 Jan;93(2):533-43. doi: 10.1007/s00253-011-3723-3. Epub 2011 Dec 2.


Chitin derivatives, chitosan and substituted chito-oligosaccharides have a wide spectrum of applications ranging from medicine to cosmetics and dietary supplements. With advancing knowledge about the substrate-binding properties of chitinases, enzyme-based production of these biotechnologically relevant sugars from biological resources is becoming increasingly interesting. Fungi have high numbers of glycoside hydrolase family 18 chitinases with different substrate-binding site architectures. As presented in this review, the large diversity of fungal chitinases is an interesting starting point for protein engineering. In this review, recent data about the architecture of the substrate-binding clefts of fungal chitinases, in connection with their hydrolytic and transglycolytic abilities, and the development of chitinase inhibitors are summarized. Furthermore, the biological functions of chitinases, chitin and chitosan utilization by fungi, and the effects of these aspects on biotechnological applications, including protein overexpression and autolysis during industrial processes, are discussed in this review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Biotechnology / methods*
  • Chitinases / chemistry
  • Chitinases / genetics
  • Chitinases / metabolism*
  • Fungi / enzymology*
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Chitinases