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Spotlight on fungal pectin utilization—from phytopathogenicity to molecular recognition and industrial applications

Schmitz, Kevin, Protzko, Ryan, Zhang, Lisha, Benz, J. Philipp
Applied microbiology and biotechnology 2019 v.103 no.6 pp. 2507-2524
agricultural wastes, apple pomace, carbon, cell walls, citrus peels, depolymerization, fermentation, galacturonic acid, industrial applications, pectins, plant pathogenic fungi, polygalacturonase, saprophytes, sugar beet pulp, tissues
Pectin is a complex polysaccharide with D-galacturonic acid as its main component that predominantly accumulates in the middle lamella of the plant cell wall. Integrity and depolymerization of pectic structures have long been identified as relevant factors in fungal phytosymbiosis and phytopathogenicity in the context of tissue penetration and carbon source supply. While the pectic content of a plant cell wall can vary significantly, pectin was reported to account for up to 20–25% of the total dry weight in soft and non-woody tissues with non- or mildly lignified secondary cell walls, such as found in citrus peel, sugar beet pulp, and apple pomace. Due to their potential applications in various industrial sectors, pectic sugars from these and similar agricultural waste streams have been recognized as valuable targets for a diverse set of biotechnological fermentations.Recent advances in uncovering the molecular regulation mechanisms for pectinase expression in saprophytic fungi have led to a better understanding of fungal pectin sensing and utilization that could help to improve industrial, pectin-based fermentations. Related research in phytopathogenic fungi has furthermore added to our knowledge regarding the relevance of pectinases in plant cell wall penetration during onset of disease and is therefore highly relevant for agricultural sciences and the agricultural industry. This review therefore aims at summarizing (i) the role of pectinases in phytopathogenicity, (ii) the global regulation patterns for pectinase expression in saprophytic filamentous fungi as a highly specialized class of pectin degraders, and (iii) the current industrial applications in pectic sugar fermentations and transformations.