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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2006

Activities of chitinolytic enzymes during primary and secondary colonization of wood by basidiomycetous fungi

Lindahl, BD; Finlay, RD


The nitrogen (N) content of wood is usually suboptimal for fungal colonization. During decomposition of wood, an increasing fraction of the N becomes incorporated into fungal mycelium. Between 5 and 50% of the N in wood-degrading mycelium may be incorporated into chitin. Chitinolytic enzymes render this N available for re-utilization.Here, the activities of chitinolytic enzymes produced by wood-rotting fungi during degradation of spruce (Picea abies) wood were quantified in situ using fluorogenic 4-methylumbelliferyl substrates. A new method was developed that enables spatial quantification of enzyme activities on solid surfaces.All of the three tested fungi produced endochitinases, chitobiosidases and N-acetylhexosaminidases during colonization of wood. N-acetylhexosaminidase activity, and in some cases also chitobiosidase and endochitinase activities, were higher during secondary overgrowth of another fungus than during primary colonization of noncolonized wood.The results suggest that wood-degrading fungi degrade their own cell walls as well as the hyphae of earlier colonizers. Recycling of cell wall material within single mycelia and between fungal individuals during succession may lead to retention of N within woody debris.


chitin degradation; chitinase; Coniophora arida; fluorogenic substrates; Hypholoma capnoides; nitrogen cycling; Resinicium bicolor; wood-rotting fungi

Published in

New Phytologist
2006, Volume: 169, number: 2, pages: 389-397

    SLU Authors

    • Lindahl, Björn

      • Department of Forest Mycology and Pathology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • Finlay, Roger

        • Department of Forest Mycology and Pathology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

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