Chitins and chitinase activity in airway diseases

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Chitin, one of the most abundant biopolymers on Earth, is bound and degraded by chitinases, specialized enzymes that are similarly widespread in nature. Chitin catabolism affects global carbon and nitrogen cycles through a host of diverse biological processes, but recent work has focused attention on systems of chitin recognition and degradation conserved in mammals, connecting an ancient pathway of polysaccharide processing to human diseases influenced by persistent immune triggering. Here we review current advances in our understanding of how chitin-chitinase interactions affect mucosal immune feedback mechanisms essential to maintaining homeostasis and organ health.

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