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J Invertebr Pathol. 2004 Feb;85(2):80-8.

The extracellular constitutive production of chitin deacetylase in Metarhizium anisopliae: possible edge to entomopathogenic fungi in the biological control of insect pests.

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Biochemical Sciences Division, National Chemical Laboratory, Pashan Road, Pune 411 008, India.


The possible contribution of extracellular constitutively produced chitin deacetylase by Metarhizium anisopliae in the process of insect pathogenesis has been evaluated. Chitin deacetylase converts chitin, a beta-1,4-linked N-acetylglucosamine polymer, into its deacetylated form chitosan, a glucosamine polymer. When grown in a yeast extract-peptone medium, M. anisopliae constitutively produced the enzymes protease, lipase, and two chitin-metabolizing enzymes, viz. chitin deacetylase (CDA) and chitosanase. Chitinase activity was induced in chitin-containing medium. Staining of 7.5% native polyacrylamide gels at pH 8.9 revealed CDA activity in three bands. SDS-PAGE showed that the apparent molecular masses of the three isoforms were 70, 37, and 26 kDa, respectively. Solubilized melanin (10microg) inhibited chitinase activity, whereas CDA was unaffected. Following germination of M. anisopliae conidia on isolated Helicoverpa armigera, cuticle revealed the presence of chitosan by staining with 3-methyl-2-benzothiazoline hydrazone. Blue patches of chitosan were observed on cuticle, indicating conversion of chitin to chitosan. Hydrolysis of chitin with constitutively produced enzymes of M. anisopliae suggested that CDA along with chitosanase contributed significantly to chitin hydrolysis. Thus, chitin deacetylase was important in initiating pathogenesis of M. anisopliae softening the insect cuticle to aid mycelial penetration. Evaluation of CDA and chitinase activities in other isolates of Metarhizium showed that those strains had low chitinase activity but high CDA activity. Chemical assays of M. anisopliae cell wall composition revealed the presence of chitosan. CDA may have a dual role in modifying the insect cuticular chitin for easy penetration as well as for altering its own cell walls for defense from insect chitinase.

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