Background: Chitin, the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature, is a constantly valuable and renewable raw material after cellulose. Due to advancement in technology, industrial interest has grown to take advantage of the chitin.
Objective: Now, biomass is being treated with diverse microbial enzymes or cells for the production of desired products under best industrial conditions. Glycosidic bonds in chitin structure are degraded by chitinase enzymes, which are characterized into number of glycoside hydrolase (GHs) families.
Methods: Thermophilic microorganisms are remarkable sources of industrially important thermostable enzymes, having ability to survive harsh industrial processing conditions. Thermostable chitinases have an edge over mesophilic chitinases as they can hydrolyse the substrate at relatively high temperatures and exhibit decreased viscosity, significantly reduced contamination risk, thermal and chemical stability and increased solubility. Various methods are employed to purify the enzyme and increase its yield by optimizing various parameters such as temperature, pH, agitation, and by investigating the effect of different chemicals and metal ions etc.
Results: Thermostable chitinase enzymes show high specific activity at elevated temperature which distinguish them from mesophiles. Genetic engineering can be used for further improvement of natural chitinases, and unlimited potential for the production of thermophilic chitinases has been highlighted due to advancement in synthetic biological techniques. Thermostable chitinases are then used in different fields such as bioremediation, medicine, agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
Conclusion: This review will provide information about chitinases, biotechnological potential of thermostable enzyme and the methods by which they are being produced and optimized for several industrial applications. Some of the applications of thermostable chitinases have also been briefly described.