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The mature form of chitinase A1 from Bacillus circulans WL-12 comprises a C-terminal domain, two type III modules (domains), and a large N-terminal domain which contains the catalytic site of the enzyme. In order to better define the roles of these chitinase domains in chitin degradation, modified chiA genes encoding various deletions of chitinase A1 were constructed. The modified chiA genes were expressed in Escherichia coli, and the gene products were analyzed after purification by high-performance liquid chromatography. Intact chitinase A1 specifically bound to chitin, while it did not show significant binding activity towards partially acetylated chitosan and other insoluble polysaccharides. Chitinases lacking the C-terminal domain lost much of this binding activity to chitin as well as colloidal chitin-hydrolyzing activity. Deletion of the type III domains, on the other hand, did not affect chitin-binding activity but did result in significantly decreased colloidal chitin-hydrolyzing activity. Hydrolysis of low-molecular-weight substrates, soluble high-molecular-weight substrates, and insoluble high-molecular-weight substrates to which chitinase A1 does not bind were not significantly affected by these deletions. Thus, it was concluded that the C-terminal domain is a chitin-binding domain required for the specific binding to chitin and that this chitin-binding activity is important for efficient hydrolysis of the sufficiently acetylated chitin. Type III modules are not directly involved in the chitin binding but play an important functional role in the hydrolysis of chitin by the enzyme bound to chitin.