Novel chitin-degrading molecule
Aas - Sientists around Dr. Vincent Eijsink from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences discovered a new molecule that may aid in the production of biofuels and fungi-resistant plants from the degradation of chitin. The research appeared as the “Paper of the Week” in the August 5 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. More than one billion tons of chitin are produced by insects, fungi, and marine organisms annually. Despite this abundance, chitin rarely accumulates in ecosystems, indicating that it is somehow degraded. Many aquatic and terrestrial microorganisms produce chitinases that are responsible for breaking down chitin. Dr. Eijsink and his colleagues investigated chitin degradation by the soil bacterium Serratia marcescens. They discovered that the bacterium produces a protein called CBP21, which binds to and disrupts the chitin polymer making it more accessible to degradation by chitinases.