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1.  Chitin Regulation of Immune Responses: An Old Molecule With New Roles 
Current opinion in immunology  2008;20(6):684-689.
Chitin, the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature, is commonly found in lower organisms such as fungi, crustaceans and insects, but not in mammals. Although the non-specific anti-viral and anti-tumor activities of chitin/chitin derivatives were described two decades ago, the immunological effects of chitin have been only recently been addressed. Recent studies demonstrated that chitin has complex and size-dependent effects on innate and adaptive immune responses including the ability to recruit and activate innate immune cells and induce cytokine and chemokine production via a variety of cell surface receptors including macrophage mannose receptor, toll-like receptor 2 (TLR-2), and Dectin-1. They also demonstrated adjuvant effects of chitin in allergen-induced Type 1 or Type 2 inflammation and provided insights into the important roles of chitinases and chitinase-like proteins (C/CLP) in pulmonary inflammation. The status of the field and areas of controversy are highlighted.
PMCID: PMC2605627  PMID: 18938241
chitin; chitinases; chitinase-like protein; innate and adaptive immunity
2.  Chitin Modulates Innate Immune Responses of Keratinocytes 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16594.
Chitin, after cellulose the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature, is an essential component of exoskeletons of crabs, shrimps and insects and protects these organisms from harsh conditions in their environment. Unexpectedly, chitin has been found to activate innate immune cells and to elicit murine airway inflammation. The skin represents the outer barrier of the human host defense and is in frequent contact with chitin-bearing organisms, such as house-dust mites or flies. The effects of chitin on keratinocytes, however, are poorly understood.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We hypothesized that chitin stimulates keratinocytes and thereby modulates the innate immune response of the skin. Here we show that chitin is bioactive on primary and immortalized keratinocytes by triggering production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Chitin stimulation further induced the expression of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) TLR4 on keratinocytes at mRNA and protein level. Chitin-induced effects were mainly abrogated when TLR2 was blocked, suggesting that TLR2 senses chitin on keratinocytes.
We speculate that chitin-bearing organisms modulate the innate immune response towards pathogens by upregulating secretion of cytokines and chemokines and expression of MyD88-associated TLRs, two major components of innate immunity. The clinical relevance of this mechanism remains to be defined.
PMCID: PMC3044707  PMID: 21383982
3.  Chitin Induces Tissue Accumulation of Innate Immune Cells Associated with Allergy 
Nature  2007;447(7140):92-96.
Allergic and parasitic helminth immunity is characterized by infiltration of tissues with IL-4- and IL-13-expressing cells, including Th2 cells, eosinophils and basophils1. Tissue macrophages assume a distinct phenotype, designated alternatively activated macrophages2. Relatively little is known regarding factors that trigger these host responses. Chitin, a widespread environmental biopolymer of N-acetyl-β-D-glucosamine, confers structural rigidity to fungi, crustaceans, helminths and insects3. Here, we show that chitin induces the tissue accumulation of IL-4-expressing innate immune cells, including eosinophils and basophils, when given to mice. Tissue infiltration was unaffected by the absence of Toll-like receptor-mediated LPS recognition and was abolished by treatment of chitin with the IL-4- and IL-13-inducible mammalian chitinase, AMCase4, or by injection into mice that over-expressed AMCase. Chitin mediated alternative macrophage activation in vivo and production of leukotriene B4, which was required for optimal immune cell recruitment. Chitin is a recognition element for tissue infiltration by innate cells implicated in allergic and helminth immunity and this process can be negatively regulated by a vertebrate chitinase.
PMCID: PMC2527589  PMID: 17450126
4.  Role of Chitin and Chitinase/Chitinase-Like Proteins in Inflammation, Tissue Remodeling, and Injury 
Annual review of physiology  2011;73:10.1146/annurev-physiol-012110-142250.
The 18 glycosyl hydrolase family of chitinases is an ancient gene family that is widely expressed from prokaryotes to eukaryotes. In mammals, despite the absence of endogenous chitin, a number of chitinases and chitinase-like proteins (C/CLPs) have been identified. However, their roles have only recently begun to be elucidated. Acidic mammalian chitinase (AMCase) inhibits chitin-induced innate inflammation; augments chitin-free, allergen-induced Th2 inflammation; and mediates effector functions of IL-13. The CLPs BRP-39/YKL-40 (also termed chitinase 3-like 1) inhibit oxidant-induced lung injury, augments adaptive Th2 immunity, regulates apoptosis, stimulates alternative macrophage activation, and contributes to fibrosis and wound healing. In accord with these findings, levels of YKL-40 in the lung and serum are increased in asthma and other inflammatory and remodeling disorders and often correlate with disease severity. Our understanding of the roles of C/CLPs in inflammation, tissue remodeling, and tissue injury in health and disease is reviewed below.
PMCID: PMC3864643  PMID: 21054166
asthma; fibrosis; BRP-39/YKL-40; AMCase; chitotriosidase
5.  Chitinases: An update 
Chitin, the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature after cellulose, is found in the exoskeleton of insects, fungi, yeast, and algae, and in the internal structures of other vertebrates. Chitinases are enzymes that degrade chitin. Chitinases contribute to the generation of carbon and nitrogen in the ecosystem. Chitin and chitinolytic enzymes are gaining importance for their biotechnological applications, especially the chitinases exploited in agriculture fields to control pathogens. Chitinases have a use in human health care, especially in human diseases like asthma. Chitinases have wide-ranging applications including the preparation of pharmaceutically important chitooligosaccharides and N-acetyl D glucosamine, preparation of single-cell protein, isolation of protoplasts from fungi and yeast, control of pathogenic fungi, treatment of chitinous waste, mosquito control and morphogenesis, etc. In this review, the various types of chitinases and the chitinases found in different organisms such as bacteria, plants, fungi, and mammals are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3612335  PMID: 23559820
Chitinases; chitinolytic enzymes; endochitinase; exochitinases
6.  Recognition and Blocking of Innate Immunity Cells by Candida albicans Chitin ▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(5):1961-1970.
Chitin is a skeletal cell wall polysaccharide of the inner cell wall of fungal pathogens. As yet, little about its role during fungus-host immune cell interactions is known. We show here that ultrapurified chitin from Candida albicans cell walls did not stimulate cytokine production directly but blocked the recognition of C. albicans by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and murine macrophages, leading to significant reductions in cytokine production. Chitin did not affect the induction of cytokines stimulated by bacterial cells or lipopolysaccharide (LPS), indicating that blocking was not due to steric masking of specific receptors. Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2), TLR4, and Mincle (the macrophage-inducible C-type lectin) were not required for interactions with chitin. Dectin-1 was required for immune blocking but did not bind chitin directly. Cytokine stimulation was significantly reduced upon stimulation of PBMCs with heat-killed chitin-deficient C. albicans cells but not with live cells. Therefore, chitin is normally not exposed to cells of the innate immune system but is capable of influencing immune recognition by blocking dectin-1-mediated engagement with fungal cell walls.
PMCID: PMC3088140  PMID: 21357722
Chitin, is a ubiquitous polysaccharide in fungi, insects and parasites. To test the hypothesis that chitin is an important immune modulator, we characterized the ability of chitin fragments to regulate murine macrophage cytokine production in vitro and induce acute inflammation in vivo. Here we show that chitin is a size-dependent stimulator of macrophage interleukin (IL)-17A production and IL-17A receptor (R) expression and demonstrate that these responses are Toll-like Receptor (TLR)-2 and MyD88-dependent. We further demonstrate that IL-17A pathway activation is an essential event in the stimulation of some but not all chitin-stimulated cytokines and that chitin utilizes a TLR-2, MyD88- and IL-17A-dependent mechanism(s) to induce acute inflammation. These studies demonstrate that chitin is a size-dependent pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP) that activates TLR-2 and MyD88 in a novel IL-17A / IL-17AR-based innate immunity pathway.
PMCID: PMC2577310  PMID: 18768886
Monocytes/Macrophages; Cytokines; Inflammation; Lung; Rodent
8.  Chitins and Chitosans as Immunoadjuvants and Non-Allergenic Drug Carriers 
Marine Drugs  2010;8(2):292-312.
Due to the fact that some individuals are allergic to crustaceans, the presumed relationship between allergy and the presence of chitin in crustaceans has been investigated. In vivo, chitin is part of complex structures with other organic and inorganic compounds: in arthropods chitin is covalently linked to proteins and tanned by quinones, in fungi it is covalently linked to glucans, while in bacteria chitin is diversely combined according to Gram(+/−) classification. On the other hand, isolated, purified chitin is a plain polysaccharide that, at the nano level, presents itself as a highly associated structure, recently refined in terms of regularity, nature of bonds, crystallinity degree and unusual colloidal behavior. Chitins and modified chitins exert a number of beneficial actions, i.e., (i) they stimulate macrophages by interacting with receptors on the macrophage surface that mediate the internalization of chitin particles to be degraded by lysozyme and N-acetyl-β-glucosaminidase (such as Nod-like, Toll-like, lectin, Dectin-1, leukotriene 134 and mannose receptors); (ii) the macrophages produce cytokines and other compounds that confer non-specific host resistance against bacterial and viral infections, and anti-tumor activity; (iii) chitin is a strong Th1 adjuvant that up-regulates Th1 immunity induced by heat-killed Mycobacterium bovis, while down- regulating Th2 immunity induced by mycobacterial protein; (iv) direct intranasal application of chitin microparticles into the lung was also able to significantly down-regulate allergic response to Dermatophagoids pteronyssinus and Aspergillus fumigatus in a murine model of allergy; (v) chitin microparticles had a beneficial effect in preventing and treating histopathologic changes in the airways of asthmatic mice; (vi) authors support the fact that chitin depresses the development of adaptive type 2 allergic responses. Since the expression of chitinases, chitrotriosidase and chitinase-like proteins is greatly amplified during many infections and diseases, the common feature of chitinase-like proteins and chitinase activity in all organisms appears to be the biochemical defense of the host. Unfortunately, conceptual and methodological errors are present in certain recent articles dealing with chitin and allergy, i.e., (1) omitted consideration of mammalian chitinase and/or chitotriosidase secretion, accompanied by inactive chitinase-like proteins, as an ancestral defensive means against invasion, capable to prevent the insurgence of allergy; (2) omitted consideration of the fact that the mammalian organism recognizes more promptly the secreted water soluble chitinase produced by a pathogen, rather than the insoluble and well protected chitin within the pathogen itself; (3) superficial and incomplete reports and investigations on chitin as an allergen, without mentioning the potent allergen from crustacean flesh, tropomyosine; (4) limited perception of the importance of the chemical/biochemical characteristics of the isolated chitin or chitosan for the replication of experiments and optimization of results; and (5) lack of interdisciplinarity. There is quite a large body of knowledge today on the use of chitosans as biomaterials, and more specifically as drug carriers for a variety of applications: the delivery routes being the same as those adopted for the immunological studies. Said articles, that devote attention to the safety and biocompatibility aspects, never reported intolerance or allergy in individuals and animals, even when the quantities of chitosan used in single experiments were quite large. Therefore, it is concluded that crab, shrimp, prawn and lobster chitins, as well as chitosans of all grades, once purified, should not be considered as “crustacean derivatives”, because the isolation procedures have removed proteins, fats and other contaminants to such an extent as to allow them to be classified as chemicals regardless of their origin.
PMCID: PMC2852840  PMID: 20390107
chitin; chitosan; chitinase; chitinase-like proteins; immunology
9.  Potential role of chitinase 3-like-1 in inflammation-associated carcinogenic changes of epithelial cells 
The family of mammalian chitinases includes members both with and without glycohydrolase enzymatic activity against chitin, a polymer of N-acetylglucosamine. Chitin is the structural component of fungi, crustaceans, insects and parasitic nematodes, but is completely absent in mammals. Exposure to antigens containing chitin- or chitin-like structures sometimes induces strong T helper type-I responses in mammals, which may be associated with the induction of mammalian chitinases. Chitinase 3-like-1 (CHI3L1), a member of the mammalian chitinase family, is induced specifically during the course of inflammation in such disorders as inflammatory bowel disease, hepatitis and asthma. In addition, CHI3L1 is expressed and secreted by several types of solid tumors including glioblastoma, colon cancer, breast cancer and malignant melanoma. Although the exact function of CHI3L1 in inflammation and cancer is still largely unknown, CHI3L1 plays a pivotal role in exacerbating the inflammatory processes and in promoting angiogenesis and remodeling of the extracellular matrix. CHI3L1 may be highly involved in the chronic engagement of inflammation which potentiates development of epithelial tumorigenesis presumably by activating the mitogen-activated protein kinase and the protein kinase B signaling pathways. Anti-CHI3L1 antibodies or pan-chitinase inhibitors may have the potential to suppress CHI3L1-mediated chronic inflammation and the subsequent carcinogenic change in epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC2776850  PMID: 19908331
Mammals; Chitinase 3-like 1; Colon; Epithelial cells; Inflammation; Colitis; Colon neoplasms; Inflammatory bowel disease
10.  Fungal chitin from asthma-associated home environments induces eosinophilic lung infiltration 
Development of asthma and allergic inflammation involves innate immunity but the environmental contributions remain incompletely defined. Analysis of dust collected from the homes of asthmatic individuals revealed that the polysaccharide chitin is environmentally widespread, and associated with β-glucans, possibly from ubiquitous fungi. Cell wall preparations of Aspergillus isolated from house dust induced robust recruitment of eosinophils into mouse lung, an effect that was attenuated by enzymatic degradation of cell wall chitinand β-glucans. Mice expressing constitutively active acidic mammalian chitinase (AMCase) in the lungs demonstrated a significant reduction in eosinophil infiltration after fungal challenge. Conversely, chitinase inhibition prolonged the duration of tissue eosinophilia. Thus, fungal chitin derived from home environments associated with asthma induces eosinophilic allergic inflammation in the lung, and mammalian chitinases, including AMCase, limit this process.
PMCID: PMC3159725  PMID: 21824866
11.  Chitin Particles Are Multifaceted Immune Adjuvants 
Rationale: Chitin is a ubiquitous polysaccharide in fungi, insects, allergens, and parasites that is released at sites of infection. Its role in the generation of tissue inflammation, however, is not fully understood.
Objectives: We hypothesized that chitin is an important adjuvant for adaptive immunity.
Methods: Mice were injected with a solution of ovalbumin and chitin.
Measurements and Main Results: We used in vivo and ex vivo/in vitro approaches to characterize the ability of chitin fragments to foster adaptive immune responses against ovalbumin and compared these responses to those induced by aluminum hydroxide (alum). In vivo, ovalbumin challenge caused an eosinophil-rich pulmonary inflammatory response, Th2 cytokine elaboration, IgE induction, and mucus metaplasia in mice that had been sensitized with ovalbumin plus chitin or ovalbumin plus alum. Toll-like receptor-2, MyD88, and IL-17A played critical roles in the chitin-induced responses, and MyD88 and IL-17A played critical roles in the alum-induced responses. In vitro, CD4+ T cells from mice sensitized with ovalbumin plus chitin were incubated with ovalbumin-stimulated bone marrow–derived dendritic cells. In these experiments, CD4+ T-cell proliferation, IL-5, IL-13, IFN-γ, and IL-17A production were appreciated. Toll-like receptor-2, MyD88, and IL-17A played critical roles in these in vitro adjuvant properties of chitin. TLR-2 was required for cell proliferation, whereas IL-17 and TLR-2 were required for cytokine elaboration. IL-17A also inhibited the generation of adaptive Th1 responses.
Conclusions: These studies demonstrate that chitin is a potent multifaceted adjuvant that induces adaptive Th2, Th1, and Th17 immune responses. They also demonstrate that the adjuvant properties of chitin are mediated by a pathway(s) that involves and is regulated by TLR-2, MyD88, and IL-17A.
PMCID: PMC3029935  PMID: 20656945
chitin; adjuvant; ovalbumin; aluminum hydroxide; alum
12.  Structural Investigation of a Novel N-Acetyl Glucosamine Binding Chi-Lectin Which Reveals Evolutionary Relationship with Class III Chitinases 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63779.
The glycosyl hydrolase 18 (GH18) family consists of active chitinases as well as chitinase like lectins/proteins (CLPs). The CLPs share significant sequence and structural similarities with active chitinases, however, do not display chitinase activity. Some of these proteins are reported to have specific functions and carbohydrate binding property. In the present study, we report a novel chitinase like lectin (TCLL) from Tamarindus indica. The crystal structures of native TCLL and its complex with N-acetyl glucosamine were determined. Similar to the other CLPs of the GH18 members, TCLL lacks chitinase activity due to mutations of key active site residues. Comparison of TCLL with chitinases and other chitin binding CLPs shows that TCLL has substitution of some chitin binding site residues and more open binding cleft due to major differences in the loop region. Interestingly, the biochemical studies suggest that TCLL is an N-acetyl glucosamine specific chi-lectin, which is further confirmed by the complex structure of TCLL with N-acetyl glucosamine complex. TCLL has two distinct N-acetyl glucosamine binding sites S1 and S2 that contain similar polar residues, although interaction pattern with N-acetyl glucosamine varies extensively among them. Moreover, TCLL structure depicts that how plants utilize existing structural scaffolds ingenuously to attain new functions. To date, this is the first structural investigation of a chi-lectin from plants that explore novel carbohydrate binding sites other than chitin binding groove observed in GH18 family members. Consequently, TCLL structure confers evidence for evolutionary link of lectins with chitinases.
PMCID: PMC3662789  PMID: 23717482
13.  The Chitinolytic Activities of Streptomyces sp. TH-11 
Chitin is an abundant biopolymer composed of units of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine linked by β-1,4 glycosidic bonds. Chitin is the main component of the shells of mollusks, the cell wall of fungi and yeast and of the exoskeleton of crustaceans and insects. The degradation of chitin is catalyzed by chitinases that occur in a wide range of organisms. Among them, the chitinases from microorganisms are extremely important for the degradation and recycling of the carbon and nitrogen trapped in the large amount of insoluble chitin in nature. Streptomyces sp. TH-11 was isolated from the sediment of the Tou-Chien River, Taiwan. The chitinolytic enzyme activities were detected using a rapid in-gel detection method from the cell-free preparation of the culture medium of TH-11. The chitinolytic enzyme activity during prolonged liquid culturing was also analyzed by direct measurement of the chitin consumption. Decomposition of the exoskeleton of shrimps was demonstrated using electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy.
PMCID: PMC3039943  PMID: 21339977
chitin; Streptomyces; chitinase
14.  Human Chitinases and Chitinase-Like Proteins as Indicators for Inflammation and Cancer 
Biomarker Insights  2007;2:128-146.
Human Glyco_18 domain-containing proteins constitute a family of chitinases and chitinase-like proteins. Chitotriosidase and AMCase are true enzymes which hydrolyse chitin and have a C-terminal chitin-binding domain. YKL-40, YKL-39, SI-CLP and murine YM1/2 proteins possess solely Glyco_18 domain and do not have the hydrolytic activity. The major sources of Glyco_18 containing proteins are macrophages, neutrophils, epithelial cells, chondrocytes, synovial cells, and cancer cells. Both macrophages and neutrophils use the regulated secretory mechanism for the release of Glyco_18 containing proteins. Glyco_18 containing proteins are established biomarkers for human diseases. Chitotriosidase is overproduced by lipid-laden macrophages and is a major marker for the inherited lysosomal storage Gaucher disease. AMCase and murine lectin YM1 are upregulated in Th2-environment, and enzymatic activity of AMCase contributes to asthma pathogenesis. YKL proteins act as soluble mediators for the cell proliferation and migration, and are also involved in rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis. Chitotriosidase and YKL-40 reflect the macrophage activation in atherosclerotic plaques. Serum level of YKL-40 is a diagnostic and prognostic marker for numerous types of solid tumors. YKL-39 is a marker for the activation of chondrocytes and the progression of the osteoarthritis in human. Recently identified SI-CLP is upregulated by Th2 cytokine IL-4 as well as by glucocorticoids. This unique feature of SI-CLP makes it an attractive candidate for the examination of individual sensitivity of patients to glucocorticoid treatment and prediction of side effects of glucocorticoid therapy. Human chitinases and chitinase-like proteins are found in tissues and circulation, and can be detected by non-invasive technologies.
PMCID: PMC2717817  PMID: 19662198
Glyco_18 Domain; Macrophage; Tumor; Arthritis; Gaucher Disease; Asthma
15.  Chitinase family GH18: evolutionary insights from the genomic history of a diverse protein family 
Chitinases (EC. hydrolyze the β-1,4-linkages in chitin, an abundant N-acetyl-β-D-glucosamine polysaccharide that is a structural component of protective biological matrices such as insect exoskeletons and fungal cell walls. The glycoside hydrolase 18 (GH18) family of chitinases is an ancient gene family widely expressed in archea, prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Mammals are not known to synthesize chitin or metabolize it as a nutrient, yet the human genome encodes eight GH18 family members. Some GH18 proteins lack an essential catalytic glutamic acid and are likely to act as lectins rather than as enzymes. This study used comparative genomic analysis to address the evolutionary history of the GH18 multiprotein family, from early eukaryotes to mammals, in an effort to understand the forces that shaped the human genome content of chitinase related proteins.
Gene duplication and loss according to a birth-and-death model of evolution is a feature of the evolutionary history of the GH18 family. The current human family likely originated from ancient genes present at the time of the bilaterian expansion (approx. 550 mya). The family expanded in the chitinous protostomes C. elegans and D. melanogaster, declined in early deuterostomes as chitin synthesis disappeared, and expanded again in late deuterostomes with a significant increase in gene number after the avian/mammalian split.
This comprehensive genomic study of animal GH18 proteins reveals three major phylogenetic groups in the family: chitobiases, chitinases/chitolectins, and stabilin-1 interacting chitolectins. Only the chitinase/chitolectin group is associated with expansion in late deuterostomes. Finding that the human GH18 gene family is closely linked to the human major histocompatibility complex paralogon on chromosome 1, together with the recent association of GH18 chitinase activity with Th2 cell inflammation, suggests that its late expansion could be related to an emerging interface of innate and adaptive immunity during early vertebrate history.
PMCID: PMC1945033  PMID: 17594485
16.  Expression and Characterization of the Chitin-Binding Domain of Chitinase A1 from Bacillus circulans WL-12 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(11):3045-3054.
Chitinase A1 from Bacillus circulans WL-12 comprises an N-terminal catalytic domain, two fibronectin type III-like domains, and a C-terminal chitin-binding domain (ChBD). In order to study the biochemical properties and structure of the ChBD, ChBDChiA1 was produced in Escherichia coli using a pET expression system and purified by chitin affinity column chromatography. Purified ChBDChiA1 specifically bound to various forms of insoluble chitin but not to other polysaccharides, including chitosan, cellulose, and starch. Interaction of soluble chitinous substrates with ChBDChiA1 was not detected by means of nuclear magnetic resonance and isothermal titration calorimetry. In addition, the presence of soluble substrates did not interfere with the binding of ChBDChiA1 to regenerated chitin. These observations suggest that ChBDChiA1 recognizes a structure which is present in insoluble or crystalline chitin but not in chito-oligosaccharides or in soluble derivatives of chitin. ChBDChiA1 exhibited binding activity over a wide range of pHs, and the binding activity was enhanced at pHs near its pI and by the presence of NaCl, suggesting that the binding of ChBDChiA1 is mediated mainly by hydrophobic interactions. Hydrolysis of β-chitin microcrystals by intact chitinase A1 and by a deletion derivative lacking the ChBD suggested that the ChBD is not absolutely required for hydrolysis of β-chitin microcrystals but greatly enhances the efficiency of degradation.
PMCID: PMC94488  PMID: 10809681
17.  Role of Chitin-Binding Proteins in the Specific Attachment of the Marine Bacterium Vibrio harveyi to Chitin 
We examined the mechanism of attachment of the marine bacterium Vibrio harveyi to chitin. Wheat germ agglutinin and chitinase bind to chitin and competitively inhibited the attachment of V. harveyi to chitin, but not to cellulose. Bovine serum albumin and cellulase do not bind to chitin and had no effect on bacterial attachment to chitin. These data suggest that this bacterium recognizes specific attachment sites on the chitin particle. The level of attachment of a chitinase-overproducing mutant of V. harveyi to chitin was about twice as much as that of the uninduced wild type. Detergent-extracted cell membranes inhibited attachment and contained a 53-kDa peptide that was overproduced by the chitinase-overproducing mutant. Three peptides (40, 53, and 150 kDa) were recovered from chitin which had been exposed to membrane extracts. Polyclonal antibodies raised against extracellular chitinase cross-reacted with the 53- and 150-kDa chitin-binding peptides and inhibited attachment, probably by sterically hindering interactions between the chitin-binding peptides and chitin. The 53- and 150-kDa chitin-binding peptides did not have chitinase activity. These results suggest that chitin-binding peptides, especially the 53-kDa chitin-binding peptide and chitinase and perhaps the 150-kDa peptide, mediate the specific attachment of V. harveyi to chitin.
PMCID: PMC202115  PMID: 16348865
18.  On the hunt for helminths: Innate immune cells in the recognition and response to helminth parasites 
Cellular microbiology  2008;10(9):1757-1764.
The generation of protective immunity to helminth parasites is critically dependent upon the development of a CD4 T helper type 2 cytokine response. However, the host-parasite interactions responsible for initiating this response are poorly understood. This review will discuss recent advances in our understanding of how helminth-derived products are recognized by innate immune cells. Specifically, interactions between helminth excretory/secretory products and host Toll-like receptors and lectins will be discussed as well as the putative functions of helminth proteases and chitin in activating and recruiting innate immune cells. In addition, the functional significance of pattern recognition by epithelial cells, granulocytes, dendritic cells, and macrophages including expression of alarmins, thymic stromal lymphopoetin (TSLP), interleukin (IL)-25, IL-33, and Notch ligands in the development of adaptive anti-parasite Th2 cytokine responses and the future research challenges in this area will be examined.
PMCID: PMC2683372  PMID: 18505479
19.  Fusion of a Novel Genetically Engineered Chitosan Affinity Protein and Green Fluorescent Protein for Specific Detection of Chitosan In Vitro and In Situ 
Chitin is the second most abundant polysaccharide, present, e.g., in insect and arthropod exoskeletons and fungal cell walls. In some species or under specific conditions, chitin appears to be enzymatically de-N-acetylated to chitosan—e.g., when pathogenic fungi invade their host tissues. Here, the deacetylation of chitin is assumed to represent a pathogenicity mechanism protecting the fungus from the host's chitin-driven immune response. While highly specific chitin binding lectins are well known and easily available, this is not the case for chitosan-specific probes. This is partly due to the poor antigenicity of chitosan so that producing high-affinity, specific antibodies is difficult. Also, lectins with specificity to chitosan have been described but are not commercially available, and our attempts to reproduce the findings were not successful. We have, therefore, generated a fusion protein between a chitosanase inactivated by site-directed mutagenesis, the green fluorescent protein (GFP), and StrepII, as well as His6 tags for purification and detection. The recombinant chitosan affinity protein (CAP) expressed in Escherichia coli was shown to specifically bind to chitosan, but not to chitin, and the affinity increased with decreasing degree of acetylation. In vitro, CAP detection was possible either based on GFP fluorescence or using Strep-Tactin conjugates or anti-His5 antibodies. CAP fluorescence microscopy revealed binding to the chitosan exposing endophytic infection structures of the wheat stem rust fungus, but not the chitin exposing ectophytic infection structures, verifying its suitability for in situ chitosan staining.
PMCID: PMC3346462  PMID: 22367086
20.  Fungal Exposure Modulates the Effect of Polymorphisms of Chitinases on Emergency Department Visits and Hospitalizations 
Rationale: Chitinases are enzymes that cleave chitin, which is present in fungal cells. Two types of human chitinases, chitotriosidase and acidic mammalian chitinase, and the chitinase-like protein, YKL-40, seem to play an important role in asthma. We hypothesized that exposure to environmental fungi may modulate the effect of chitinases in individuals with asthma.
Objectives: To explore whether interactions between high fungal exposure and common genetic variants in the two chitinases in humans, CHIT1 and CHIA, and the chitinase 3-like 1 gene, CHI3L1, are associated with severe asthma exacerbations and other asthma-related outcomes.
Methods: Forty-eight single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in CHIT1, CHIA, and CHI3L1 and one CHIT1 duplication were genotyped in 395 subjects and their parents as part of the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Household levels of mold (an index of fungal exposure) were determined on house dust samples. We conducted family-based association tests with gene–environment interactions. Our outcome was severe exacerbation, defined as emergency department visits and hospitalizations from asthma over a 4-year period, and our secondary outcomes included indices of lung function and allergy-related phenotypes.
Measurements and Main Results: Of the 395 subjects who had mold levels at randomization, 24% (95 subjects) had levels that were greater than 25,000 units per gram of house dust (high mold exposure). High mold exposure significantly modified the relation between three SNPs in CHIT1 (rs2486953, rs4950936, and rs1417149) and severe exacerbations (P for interaction 0.0010 for rs2486953, 0.0008 for rs4950936, and 0.0005 for rs1417149). High mold exposure did not significantly modify the relationship between any of the other variants and outcomes.
Conclusions: Environmental exposure to fungi, modifies the effect of CHIT1 SNPs on severe asthma exacerbations.
PMCID: PMC2970860  PMID: 20538957
chitinase; asthma; CHIA; CHIT1; CHI13L1
21.  Sequence and Structural Analysis of the Chitinase Insertion Domain Reveals Two Conserved Motifs Involved in Chitin-Binding 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8654.
Chitinases are prevalent in life and are found in species including archaea, bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. They break down chitin, which is the second most abundant carbohydrate in nature after cellulose. Hence, they are important for maintaining a balance between carbon and nitrogen trapped as insoluble chitin in biomass. Chitinases are classified into two families, 18 and 19 glycoside hydrolases. In addition to a catalytic domain, which is a triosephosphate isomerase barrel, many family 18 chitinases contain another module, i.e., chitinase insertion domain. While numerous studies focus on the biological role of the catalytic domain in chitinase activity, the function of the chitinase insertion domain is not completely understood. Bioinformatics offers an important avenue in which to facilitate understanding the role of residues within the chitinase insertion domain in chitinase function.
Twenty-seven chitinase insertion domain sequences, which include four experimentally determined structures and span five kingdoms, were aligned and analyzed using a modified sequence entropy parameter. Thirty-two positions with conserved residues were identified. The role of these conserved residues was explored by conducting a structural analysis of a number of holo-enzymes. Hydrogen bonding and van der Waals calculations revealed a distinct subset of four conserved residues constituting two sequence motifs that interact with oligosaccharides. The other conserved residues may be key to the structure, folding, and stability of this domain.
Sequence and structural studies of the chitinase insertion domains conducted within the framework of evolution identified four conserved residues which clearly interact with the substrates. Furthermore, evolutionary studies propose a link between the appearance of the chitinase insertion domain and the function of family 18 chitinases in the subfamily A.
PMCID: PMC2805709  PMID: 20084296
22.  Evidence for a “Wattle and Daub” Model of the Cyst Wall of Entamoeba 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(7):e1000498.
The cyst wall of Entamoeba invadens (Ei), a model for the human pathogen Entamoeba histolytica, is composed of fibrils of chitin and three chitin-binding lectins called Jacob, Jessie3, and chitinase. Here we show chitin, which was detected with wheat germ agglutinin, is made in secretory vesicles prior to its deposition on the surface of encysting Ei. Jacob lectins, which have tandemly arrayed chitin-binding domains (CBDs), and chitinase, which has an N-terminal CBD, were each made early during encystation. These results are consistent with their hypothesized roles in cross-linking chitin fibrils (Jacob lectins) and remodeling the cyst wall (chitinase). Jessie3 lectins likely form the mortar or daub of the cyst wall, because 1) Jessie lectins were made late during encystation; 2) the addition to Jessie lectins to the cyst wall correlated with a marked decrease in the permeability of cysts to nucleic acid stains (DAPI) and actin-binding heptapeptide (phalloidin); and 3) recombinant Jessie lectins, expressed as a maltose-binding proteins in the periplasm of Escherichia coli, caused transformed bacteria to agglutinate in suspension and form a hard pellet that did not dissociate after centrifugation. Jessie3 appeared as linear forms and rosettes by negative staining of secreted recombinant proteins. These findings provide evidence for a “wattle and daub” model of the Entamoeba cyst wall, where the wattle or sticks (chitin fibrils likely cross-linked by Jacob lectins) is constructed prior to the addition of the mortar or daub (Jessie3 lectins).
Author Summary
Parasitic protists, which are spread by the fecal-oral route, have cyst walls that resist environmental insults (e.g. desiccation, stomach acids, bile, etc.). Entamoeba histolytica, the cause of amebic dysentery and liver abscess, is the only protist characterized to date that has chitin in its cyst wall. We have previously characterized Entamoeba chitin synthases, chitinases, and multivalent chitin-binding lectins called Jacob. Here we present evidence that the Entamoeba Jessie3 lectin contributes to the mortar or daub, which makes the cyst wall impenetrable to small molecules. First, the Jessie3 lectin was made after chitin and Jacob lectins had already been deposited onto the surface of encysting Entamoeba. Second, cysts became impenetrable to small molecules at the same time that Jessie3 was deposited into the wall. Third, recombinant Jessie3 lectins self-aggregated and caused transfected bacteria to agglutinate. These results suggest a “wattle and daub” model of the Ei cyst wall, where the wattle or sticks (chitin fibrils likely cross-linked by Jacob lectins) is constructed prior to the addition of the mortar or daub (Jessie3 lectins).
PMCID: PMC2698119  PMID: 19578434
23.  Pulmonary cryptococcosis induces chitinase in the rat 
Respiratory Research  2008;9(1):40.
We previously demonstrated that chronic pulmonary infection with Cryptococcus neoformans results in enhanced allergic inflammation and airway hyperreactivity in a rat model. Because the cell wall of C. neoformans consists of chitin, and since acidic mammalian chitinase (AMCase) has recently been implicated as a novel mediator of asthma, we sought to determine whether such infection induces chitinase activity and expression of AMCase in the rat.
We utilized a previously-established model of chronic C. neoformans pulmonary infection in the rat to analyze the activity, expression and localization of AMCase.
Our studies indicate that intratracheal inoculation of C. neoformans induces chitinase activity within the lung and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of infected rats. Chitinase activity is also elicited by pulmonary infection with other fungi (e.g. C. albicans), but not by the inoculation of dead organisms. Enhanced chitinase activity reflects increased AMCase expression by airway epithelial cells and alveolar macrophages. Systemic cryptococcosis is not associated with increased pulmonary chitinase activity or AMCase expression.
Our findings indicate a possible link between respiratory fungal infections, including C. neoformans, and asthma through the induction of AMCase.
PMCID: PMC2405779  PMID: 18482441
24.  Production of N-Acetylglucosamine Using Recombinant Chitinolytic Enzymes 
Indian Journal of Microbiology  2011;51(3):319-325.
The pharmaceutically important compound N-acetylglucosamine (NAG), is used in various therapeutic formulations, skin care products and dietary supplements. Currently, NAG is being produced by an environment-unfriendly chemical process using chitin, a polysaccharide present in abundance in the exoskeleton of crustaceans, as a substrate. In the present study, we report the potential of an eco-friendly biological process for the production of NAG using recombinant bacterial enzymes, chitinase (CHI) and chitobiase (CHB). The treatment of chitin with recombinant CHI alone produced 8% NAG and 72% chitobiose, a homodimer of NAG. However, supplementation of the reaction mixture with another recombinant enzyme, CHB, resulted in approximately six fold increase in NAG production. The product, NAG, was confirmed by HPLC, TLC and ESI-MS studies. Conditions are being optimized for increased production of NAG from chitin.
PMCID: PMC3209915  PMID: 22754010
N-acetylglucosamine; Chitin; Chitobiase; Chitinase; Gene cloning
25.  Molecular Cloning and Functional Expression of Chitinase-Encoding cDNA from the Cabbage Moth, Mamestra brassicae 
Molecules and Cells  2011;33(5):439-447.
Chitinase is a rate-limiting and endo-splitting enzyme involved in the bio-degradation of chitin, an important component of the cuticular exoskeleton and peritrophic matrix in insects. We isolated a cDNA-encoding chitinase from the last larval integument of the cabbage moth, Mamestra brassicae (Lepidoptera; Noctuidae), cloned the ORF cDNA into E. coli to confirm its functionality, and analyzed the deduced amino acid sequence in comparison with previously described lepidopteran chitinases. M. brassicae chitinase expressed in the transformed E. coli cells with the chitinase-encoding cDNA enhanced cell proliferation to about 1.6 times of the untransformed wild type strain in a colloidal chitin-including medium with only a very limited amount of other nutrients. Compared with the wild type strain, the intracellular levels of chitin degradation derivatives, glucosamine and N-acetylglucosamine were about 7.2 and 2.3 times higher, respectively, while the extracellular chitinase activity was about 2.2 times higher in the transformed strain. The ORF of M. brassicae chitinase-encoding cDNA consisted of 1686 nucleotides (562 amino acid residues) except for the stop codon, and its deduced amino acid composition revealed a calculated molecular weight of 62.7 and theoretical pI of 5.3. The ORF was composed of N-terminal leading signal peptide (AA 1-20), catalytic domain (AA 21–392), linker region (AA 393–498), and C-terminal chitin-binding domain (AA 499–562) showing its characteristic structure as a molting fluid chitinase. In phylogenetic analysis, the enzymes from 6 noctuid species were grouped together, separately from a group of 3 bombycid and 1 tortricid enzymes, corresponding to their taxonomic relationships at both the family and genus levels.
PMCID: PMC3887735  PMID: 22124732
cloning; chitinase; E. coli; functional expression; Mamestra brassicae

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