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Chitosan activates resistance against pathogens after exposure: Production of chitosans from shrimp shells for applications in plant disease protection

The purpose of this project is to develop and exploit the economic and ecological potential of the abundant biological raw material, chitin, isolated from waste shrimp shells, which will be up-graded into chemically and biologically well-defined chitosans. These biocompatible, biodegradable, non-allergenic, non-toxic chitosans will be tested for their ability to protect economically important crop plants from disease. The up-grading of bulk chitosan into pure, speciality chitosans for consumer-safe, environment-friendly, cost-effective plant protection will add value and improve the whole crop utilisation for shrimp fisheries, improve sustainability in agriculture, and improve the quality of life by supplying healthier food. The creation of new working relationships between fisheries and agro-industries will lead to new knowledge-based companies increasing employment opportunities in the European Union, by opening the agro-industry and the medical market for high quality chitosans, so that the EU may become a world leader in this growing biotechnology market.

Today's chitosans are greatly variable in purity and solubility, and ill-defined in chemical composition, molecular weight, and their biological effects. We will develop and define processing technologies for the generation of chemically, physico-chemically, and biologically well defined chitosans either by chemical or enzymatic approaches, thus up-grading cheap bulk chitosan into high added value speciality chitosans. The generation of specific recombinant antibodies and chitin modifying enzymes will allow us to set up rigorous quality control schemes for standardised processing of chitin into defined chitosans with desired high quality, properties, and reproducibility, to meet industry demands and to benefit the consumer. The feasibility of the approach will be exemplified by assessing the potential of defined chitosans to be used as consumer-safe, environment-friendly, cost-effective disease protectants in EU-relevant crops.

Progress to Date
The fourth year of the CARAPAX project will mainly be devoted to:

The production of chitosan nanoparticles and oligomers with known architecture:
The French and Norwegian partners will generate larger amounts of selected chitosans for the greenhouse and field trials. Concomitantly, the French partner has started to generate series of fully and partially acetylated GlcN- and GlcNAc-oligomers and mixed GlcN/GlcNAc-oligomers with known architecture. The French partner has also started the generation and characterisation of chitin and chitosan nanoparticles to increase their solubility in water.
The use and optimisation of chitin and chitosan modifying enzymes and antibodies:
The German, Greek, and Norwegian partners are collaborating in using the enzymatic tools to generate novel chitosan preparations for bio-testing. The Greek partner continues his efforts in genetically modifying and optimising the substrate specificities and/or product patterns of the enzymes now available. The German partner responsible for antibody production is continuing to identify and characterise clones generating suitable recombinant antibodies against chitin and chitosan.
The bio-testing of selected chitosans in plant disease protection:
The greenhouse and field trials of the German partners will continue to identify promising applications for the most bio-active chitosans identified. Chitosans will be used singly or in combination to profit from synergistic effects predicted by the various bio-activity matrices. An attempt will be made to enlarge the scope of the general law of behaviour of chitosans to include not only their physico-chemical properties but also their biological activities.


Scientist responsible for the project

Hindenburgplatz 55
48143 Muenster
Germany - DE

Phone: +49 251 8324794
Fax: +49 258 328371


Project ID QLRT-2000-00777
Area 5.2
Start date 01 January 2001
Duration (months) 24
Total cost 2 499 223 €
Total EC contribution   2 054 223 €
Status Ongoing
Web address of the project

The partners

  • Rheinisch-Westfälische. Technischen Hochschule Aachen, Germany - DE

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