Molecular and biochemical aspects of chitin synthesis inhibition.

S. R. Palli, A. Retnakaran

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Chitin, is a beta-1,4-linked aminopolysacharide homopolymer of GlcNAc that occurs as a glycoprotein in the exoskeleton of arthropods, the cell wall of fungi and in various components of diverse invertebrates. It is synthesized in two different ways: in fungi the chitin synthase enzyme occurs as an inactive zymogen in vesicles called chitosomes and requires proteolytic activation; in arthropods this enzyme is membrane-bound and catalyzes the addition of GlcNAc units to a dolichol carrier. Chitin is degraded by three different chitinases, the endochitinase that degrades chitin into oligosaccharides of differing chain lengths, the exochitinase that degrades oligosaccharides into diacetylchitobiose and chitobiase, which degrades diacetylchitobiose into GlcNAc monomers. Inhibition of chitin synthesis as well as degradation can both result in deleterious effects that are often similar. Chitin synthesis can be blocked during the various steps by a variety of antibiotics, metabolic inhibitors, insect growth regulators, alkaloids and hormone analogs. During the molting process in arthropods, genes are sequentially expressed and repressed by developmental hormones. When these hormones or their analogs are administered temporally out of sequence, it can result in the blocking of cuticle formation, including chitin synthesis. With the advent of biotechnology and the availability of both complementary DNA and antibody probes, it is possible to develop high throughput assays for discovering new chemicals that can block chitin formation. Chitin synthesis inhibitors as well as inhibitors of chitin degradation that produce similar effects are promising agents for controlling insect pests, fungal pathogens and helminthic parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-98
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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