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Chitin deacetylases: structures, specificities, and biotech applications.
L. Grifoll, S. Pascual, H. Aragunde, X. Biarnés, A. Planas.
Polymers 10, 352 (2018).


Depolymerization and de-N-acetylation of chitin by chitinases and deacetylases generates a series of derivatives including chitosans and chitooligosaccharides (COS), which are involved in molecular recognition events such as modulation of cell signaling and morphogenesis, immune responses, and host-pathogen interactions. Chitosans and COS are also attractive scaffolds for the development of bionanomaterials for drug/gene delivery and tissue engineering applications. Most of the biological activities associated with COS seem to be largely dependent not only on the degree of polymerization but also on the acetylation pattern, which defines the charge density and distribution of GlcNAc and GlcNH2 moieties in chitosans and COS. Chitin de-N-acetylases (CDAs) catalyze the hydrolysis of the acetamido group in GlcNAc residues of chitin, chitosan, and COS. The deacetylation patterns are diverse, some CDAs being specific for single positions, others showing multiple attack, processivity or random actions. This review summarizes the current knowledge on substrate specificity of bacterial and fungal CDAs, focusing on the structural and molecular aspects of their modes of action. Understanding the structural determinants of specificity will not only contribute to unravelling structure-function relationships, but also to use and engineer CDAs as biocatalysts for the production of tailor-made chitosans and COS for a growing number of applications.