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FEMS Yeast Res. 2006 Nov;6(7):957-65. Epub 2006 Sep 19.

Chitosomes: past, present and future.

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Department of Microbiology, Division of Experimental and Applied Biology, CICESE (Center for Scientific Investigation & Higher Education of Ensenada), Baja California, Mexico.


José Ruiz-Herrera's discovery that chitin microfibrils could be made by a fungal extract paved the way for elucidating the intracellular location of chitin synthetase. In collaboration with Charles Bracker, chitosomes were identified as the major reservoir of chitin synthetase in fungi. Unique in size, buoyant density, and membrane thickness, chitosomes were found in a wide range of fungi. Their reversible dissociation into 16S subunits is another unique property of chitosomes. These 16S subunits are the smallest molecular entities known to retain chitin synthetase activity. Further dissociation leads to complete loss of activity. From studies with secretory mutants, yeast researchers concluded that chitosomes were components of the endocytosis pathway. However, key structural and enzymatic characteristics argue in favor of the chitosome being poised for exocytotic delivery rather than endocytotic recycling. The chitosome represents the main vehicle for delivering chitin synthetase to the cell surface. An immediate challenge is to elucidate chitosome ontogeny and the role of proteins encoded by the reported chitin synthetase genes in the structure or function of chitosomes. The ultimate challenge would be to understand how the chitosome integrates with the cell surface to construct the organized microfibrillar skeleton of the fungal cell wall.

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