Biotechnology-Derived Chitosans with Non-Random Patterns of Acetylation Differ from Conventional Chitosans in Their Properties and Activities


Chitosans are versatile biopolymers with multiple biological activities and potential applications. They are linear copolymers of glucosamine and N-acetylglucosamine defined by their degree of polymerization (DP), fraction of acetylation (FA), and pattern of acetylation (PA). Technical chitosans produced chemically from chitin possess defined DP and FA but random PA, while enzymatically produced natural chitosans are likely to have non-random PA. This natural process has not been replicated using biotechnology because chitin de-N-acetylases do not efficiently deacetylate crystalline chitin. Here, we show that such enzymes can partially N-acetylate polyglucosamine in the presence of excess acetate, yielding chitosans with FA up to 0.7 and an enzyme-dependent non-random PA. The biotech chitosans differ from technical chitosans both in terms of physicochemical and nanoscale solution properties and biological activities. As with synthetic block co-polymers, controlling the distribution of building blocks within the biopolymer chain will open a new dimension of chitosan research and exploitation.