Chitin is a major carbohydrate component of the fungal cell wall and a promising target for novel antifungal agents. However, it is technically challenging to characterize the structure of this polymer in native cell walls. Here, we recorded and compared 13C chemical shifts of chitin using isotopically enriched cells of six Aspergillus, Rhizopus, and Candida strains, with data interpretation assisted by principal component analysis (PCA) and linear discriminant analysis (LDA) methods. The structure of chitin is found to be intrinsically heterogeneous, with peak multiplicity detected in each sample and distinct fingerprints observed across fungal species. Fungal chitin exhibits partial similarity to the model structures of α- and γ-allomorphs; therefore, chitin structure is not significantly affected by interactions with other cell wall components. Addition of antifungal drugs and salts did not significantly perturb the chemical shifts, revealing the structural resistance of chitin to external stress. In addition, the structure of the deacetylated form, chitosan, was found to resemble a relaxed two-fold helix conformation. This study provides high-resolution information on the structure of chitin and chitosan in their cellular contexts. The method is applicable to the analysis of other complex carbohydrates and polymer composites.
Keywords: Aspergillus; Candida; cell wall; chitin; chitosan; fungi; principal component analysis; solid-state NMR.
Copyright © 2021 Fernando, Dickwella Widanage, Penfield, Lipton, Washton, Latgé, Wang, Zhang and Wang.