Chitin is endogenously produced in vertebrates

Curr Biol. 2015 Mar 30;25(7):897-900. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.01.058. Epub 2015 Mar 12.


Chitin, a biopolymer of N-acetylglucosamine, is abundant in invertebrates and fungi and is an important structural molecule [1, 2]. There has been a longstanding belief that vertebrates do not produce chitin; however, we have obtained compelling evidence to the contrary. Chitin synthase genes are present in numerous fishes and amphibians, and chitin is localized in situ to the lumen of the developing zebrafish gut, in epithelial cells of fish scales, and in at least three different cell types in larval salamander appendages. Chitin synthase gene knockdowns and various histochemical experiments in zebrafish further authenticated our results. Finally, a polysaccharide was extracted from scales of salmon that exhibited all the chemical hallmarks of chitin. Our data and analyses demonstrate the existence of endogenous chitin in vertebrates and suggest that it serves multiple roles in vertebrate biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amphibians / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Chitin / genetics
  • Chitin / metabolism*
  • Chitin Synthase / genetics
  • Chitin Synthase / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Fishes / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Vertebrates / growth & development
  • Vertebrates / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism


  • Chitin
  • Chitin Synthase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/KM203892