Fungal Chitosan II
Duration 05.08.2019 to 05.08.2022
Project FFG Bridge 1 (#874714)
Our ecological and economic future depends on the development of renewable and sustainable products. Chitosan, due to its bioactivity and biocompatibility, is an immensely attractive natural resource for agrobio(techno-)logy, the medical-, textile- and food industry, as well as in water engineering. The state-of-the-art production of chitosan uses chitin from crustacean shells, and chemical modification with strong inorganic acids and alkaline solutions, which creates highly toxic wastes and fairly impure and undefined chitosan derivatives as a drawback for economic and ecological production.
In our previous work, we established the filamentous fungus as an efficient cell factory to produce and extract chitosan at a commercial scale without ecological conflicts. This was accomplished by modulating the gene expression involved in cell wall synthesis, which determines the degree of chitin polymerization. In the proposed follow up project, we will generate mutant lines with altered morphology and thus increased cell wall chitin, beneficial for up- and downstream processing. During further process optimization, we will make use of such cell factories to produce chitin and chitosan in high yields, by establishing a multi-step procedure using enzymatic extraction and modification methods. In a second strategy, we will increase biomass formation by employing cheap but suitable by-products provided by our commercial partner. The produced highly pure and defined Fungal chitosan (FunCHSN) will be used to establish biocontrol of the most important fungal and bacterial pests in agriculture. Systemic induced resistance of plants in crop control will also be investigated as well as cross-application with FunCHSN as a biocontrol agent. The establishment of BRIDGE projects aims to transform basic research into industrial applications.
Our research contributes to novel insights in fundamental cell biology, provides advances in biotechnology, and establishes a sustainable method to use a biopolymer with an enormous potential for innovative and green applications. Our approach will generate chitosan in high yields and with high purity from a renewable, non-animal derived resource under controllable conditions as an attractive substitute for the current ecologically and ethically questionable methods. Taken together we are convinced that our approach will revolutionize production routes for chitosan and its derivatives, yielding a cheaper, biocompatible and green product that boosts the attractiveness of chitosan-based applications.