Identification and Characterization of the Chitin Synthase Genes From the Fish Pathogen Saprolegnia parasitica

Elzbieta Rzeszutek, Sara M. Díaz-Moreno, Vincent Bulone

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Saprolegnia parasitica is a pathogenic oomycete responsible for severe fish infections. Despite its low abundance in the cell wall of S. parasitica, chitin is essential for hyphal growth as the inhibition of its biosynthesis leads to highly reduced growth. Here we identified and characterized chitin synthases (CHS) from S. parasitica as potential targets for anti-oomycete drugs. Bioinformatics analyses allowed the identification of six different putative Chs genes in the genome of the pathogen. The total number of genes was confirmed by Southern blot analysis and their expression levels were determined by quantitative PCR. Four of the six Chs genes were expressed in the mycelium, while the two others exhibited undetectable levels of expression. The mycelium was highly sensitive to the addition of nikkomycin Z (NZ) in the culture medium, which led to a decreased amount of chitin in the cell wall by up to 40% in the conditions tested, and to the formation of abnormal branching structures in the hyphae. The presence of NZ increased the expression level of one of the genes, Chs3, suggesting that the corresponding product is compensating the disruption of chitin biosynthesis in the hyphae. In addition, the activity of isolated CHS was strongly inhibited by NZ in vitro. Altogether our data indicate the importance of CHS for the vegetative growth of S. parasitica and demonstrate that these enzymes represent promising targets for the control of diseases caused by oomycetes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2873
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • chitin biosynthesis
  • chitin synthase genes
  • nikkomycin Z
  • oomycetes
  • Saprolegnia parasitica


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