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Curr Opin Immunol. 2008 Dec;20(6):684-9. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2008.10.002. Epub 2008 Nov 1.

Chitin regulation of immune responses: an old molecule with new roles.

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Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, 300 Cedar Street (S441 TAC), P.O. Box 208057, New Haven, CT 06520-8057, United States.


Chitin, the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature, is commonly found in lower organisms such as fungi, crustaceans, and insects, but not in mammals. Although the non-specific anti-viral and anti-tumor activities of chitin/chitin derivatives were described two decades ago, the immunological effects of chitin have been only recently been addressed. Recent studies demonstrated that chitin has complex and size-dependent effects on innate and adaptive immune responses including the ability to recruit and activate innate immune cells and induce cytokine and chemokine production via a variety of cell surface receptors including macrophage mannose receptor, toll-like receptor 2 (TLR-2), and Dectin-1. They also demonstrated adjuvant effects of chitin in allergen-induced type 1 or type 2 inflammation and provided insights into the important roles of chitinases and chitinase-like proteins (C/CLP) in pulmonary inflammation. The status of the field and areas of controversy are highlighted.

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