Open Access Research article

Degradation of different pectins by fungi: correlations and contrasts between the pectinolytic enzyme sets identified in genomes and the growth on pectins of different origin

Isabelle Benoit1*, Pedro M Coutinho2, Henk A Schols3, Jan P Gerlach1, Bernard Henrissat2 and Ronald P de Vries14

Author Affiliations

1 Microbiology & Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentations, Utrecht University, Padualaan 8, Utrecht, 3584 CH, The Netherlands

2 Architecture et Fonction des Macromolécules Biologiques, Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS UMR 7257, Case 932, 163 Av de Luminy, Marseille cedex 9, 13288, France

3 Laboratory of Food Chemistry, Wageningen University, Bomenweg 2, Wageningen, 6703HD, The Netherlands

4 Fungal Physiology, CBS-KNAW, Uppsalalaan 8, Utrecht, 3584 CT, The Netherlands

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:321  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-321

Published: 19 July 2012



Pectins are diverse and very complex biomolecules and their structure depends on the plant species and tissue. It was previously shown that derivatives of pectic polymers and oligosaccharides from pectins have positive effects on human health. To obtain specific pectic oligosaccharides, highly defined enzymatic mixes are required. Filamentous fungi are specialized in plant cell wall degradation and some produce a broad range of pectinases. They may therefore shed light on the enzyme mixes needed for partial hydrolysis.


The growth profiles of 12 fungi on four pectins and four structural elements of pectins show that the presence/absence of pectinolytic genes in the fungal genome clearly correlates with their ability to degrade pectins. However, this correlation is less clear when we zoom in to the pectic structural elements.


This study highlights the complexity of the mechanisms involved in fungal degradation of complex carbon sources such as pectins. Mining genomes and comparative genomics are promising first steps towards the production of specific pectinolytic fractions.