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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Dec;70(12):6977-83.

Chitinase gene sequences retrieved from diverse aquatic habitats reveal environment-specific distributions.

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  • 1Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-3636, USA.


Chitin is an abundant biopolymer whose degradation is mediated primarily by bacterial chitinases. We developed a degenerate PCR primer set to amplify a approximately 900-bp fragment of family 18, group I chitinase genes and used it to retrieve these gene fragments from environmental samples. Clone libraries of presumptive chitinase genes were created for nine water and six sediment samples from 10 aquatic environments including freshwater and saline lakes, estuarine water and sediments, and the central Arctic Ocean. Putative chitinase sequences were also retrieved from the Sargasso Sea metagenome sequence database. We were unable to obtain PCR product with these primers from an alkaline, hypersaline lake (Mono Lake, California). In total, 108 partial chitinase gene sequences were analyzed, with a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 13 chitinase sequences obtained from each library. All chitinase sequences were novel compared to previously identified sequences. Intralibrary sequence diversity was low, while we found significant differences between libraries from different water column samples and between water column and sediment samples. However, identical sequences were retrieved from samples collected at widely distributed locations that did not necessarily represent similar environments, suggesting homogeneity of chitinoclastic communities between some environments.

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