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Saccharomyces cerevisiae chitin biosynthesis activation by N-acetylchitooses depends on size and structure of chito-oligosaccharides

Hubert F Becker12*, Annie Piffeteau23 and Annie Thellend2

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratoire d'Optique et Biosciences, INSERM U696, CNRS UMR7645, Ecole Polytechnique, 91128 Palaiseau, France

2 UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS UMR 7203, Laboratoire des Biomolécules, Paris 75005, France

3 Université Paris-Diderot, Paris 75013, France

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:454  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-454

Published: 27 October 2011



To explore chitin synthesis initiation, the effect of addition of exogenous oligosaccharides on in vitro chitin synthesis was studied. Oligosaccharides of various natures and lengths were added to a chitin synthase assay performed on a Saccharomyces cerevisiae membrane fraction.


N-acetylchito-tetra, -penta and -octaoses resulted in 11 to 25% [14C]-GlcNAc incorporation into [14C]-chitin, corresponding to an increase in the initial velocity. The activation appeared specific to N-acetylchitooses as it was not observed with oligosaccharides in other series, such as beta-(1,4), beta-(1,3) or alpha-(1,6) glucooligosaccharides.


The effect induced by the N-acetylchitooses was a saturable phenomenon and did not interfere with free GlcNAc and trypsin which are two known activators of yeast chitin synthase activity in vitro. The magnitude of the activation was dependent on both oligosaccharide concentration and oligosaccharide size.

chitin synthase; oligosaccharides; polysaccharide synthase; glycosyltransferase; polymerization activation