Chitin and chitosan remodeling defines vegetative development and Trichoderma biocontrol

PLoS Pathog. 2020 Feb 20;16(2):e1008320. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1008320. eCollection 2020 Feb.


Fungal parasitism depends on the ability to invade host organisms and mandates adaptive cell wall remodeling to avoid detection and defense reactions by the host. All plant and human pathogens share invasive strategies, which aid to escape the chitin-triggered and chitin-targeted host immune system. Here we describe the full spectrum of the chitin/chitosan-modifying enzymes in the mycoparasite Trichoderma atroviride with a central role in cell wall remodeling. Rapid adaption to a variety of growth conditions, environmental stresses and host defense mechanisms such as oxidative stress depend on the concerted interplay of these enzymes and, ultimately, are necessary for the success of the mycoparasitic attack. To our knowledge, we provide the first in class description of chitin and associated glycopolymer synthesis in a mycoparasite and demonstrate that they are essential for biocontrol. Eight chitin synthases, six chitin deacetylases, additional chitinolytic enzymes, including six chitosanases, transglycosylases as well as accessory proteins are involved in this intricately regulated process. Systematic and biochemical classification, phenotypic characterization and mycoparasitic confrontation assays emphasize the importance of chitin and chitosan assembly in vegetative development and biocontrol in T. atroviride. Our findings critically contribute to understanding the molecular mechanism of chitin synthesis in filamentous fungi and mycoparasites with the overarching goal to selectively exploit the discovered biocontrol strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Chitin / metabolism*
  • Chitin / physiology
  • Chitin Synthase / metabolism
  • Chitosan / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal / genetics
  • Glycoside Hydrolases
  • Phylogeny
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Trichoderma / growth & development
  • Trichoderma / metabolism*
  • Trichoderma / pathogenicity


  • Chitin
  • Chitosan
  • Chitin Synthase
  • Glycoside Hydrolases
  • chitosanase