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J Biol Chem. 1995 Jan 20;270(3):1170-8.

Architecture of the yeast cell wall. The linkage between chitin and beta(1-->3)-glucan.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biochemistry and Metabolism, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


To isolate the putative linkage region between chitin and beta(1-->3)-glucan, Saccharomyces cerevisiae cell walls were digested with beta(1-->3)-endoglucanase and the reducing ends of the enzyme-resistant glucose chain stubs were labeled by reduction with borotritide. The radioactive material was further digested with exochitinase to remove the bulk of the chitin, and the liberated oligosaccharides were fractionated on a sizing column. A single peak (compound I) was found to consist of N-acetylglucosamine, glucose, and glucitol residues in the ratio 1:2:1. By digestion with beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase and by NMR spectroscopy, N-acetylglucosamine was identified as the nonreducing terminus, linked to laminaritriitol by a beta(1-->4) bond. Five additional oligosaccharides were recovered, two being analogs of compound I, with 1 or 3 glucose units, respectively; the remaining three were shown to be the reduced analogs of laminaribiose, laminaritriose, and laminaritetraose. The presence of N-acetylglucosamine-containing oligosaccharides arises from the activity of chitinase in cleaving 2 sugar units sequentially in those chains containing an odd number of N-acetylglucosamine residues; correspondingly, oligosaccharides containing only glucose and sorbitol derived from even-numbered chitin chains, a result implying that chitinase can hydrolyze the linkage between N-acetylglucosamine and glucose. It is concluded that the terminal reducing residue of a chitin chain is attached to the nonreducing end of a beta(1-->3)-glucan chain by a beta(1-->4) linkage. Experiments with appropriate mutants showed that synthesis of the chitin combined with glucan is catalyzed by chitin synthetase 3. The timing and possible mechanism of formation of the chitin-glucan linkage is discussed.

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