Characterization of a novel gut-specific chitinase gene from the human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae

Zhicheng Shen, Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Chitinases that function in the molting of the larval exoskeleton have been characterized previously. However, chitinase expression in an adult insect gut has not been described. Here we report on the initial characterization and cloning of a novel chitinase gene that is expressed specifically in the midgut of adult Anopheles gambiae females. Upon feeding, chitinase is secreted into the gut lumen as an inactive pro-enzyme that is later activated by trypsin. Thus, temporal regulation of chitinase activity is tightly coupled to the temporal pattern of trypsin secretion. The enzyme may play a role in structuring the chitin-containing extracellular peritrophic matrix, whose formation is also induced by feeding. A chitinase cDNA was cloned from a library enriched for gut-specific sequences. The open reading frame encodes a 525-amino acid protein comprised of a putative catalytic domain at the N terminus, a putative chitin-binding domain at the C terminus, and a threonine/serine/proline-rich amino acid stretch in between them. Northern analysis indicates that this chitinase is expressed exclusively in the guts of adult females and not in adult carcasses or in any larval or pupal tissues. The present findings suggest the possibility of using this chitinase as an antigen for a malaria transmission-blocking vaccine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28895-28900
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 14 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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