Chitin, chitosan and their complexes with β-glucan (chitin–glucan complex, CGC, and chitosan–glucan complex, ChGC) are value-added polysaccharides extracted from the cell-walls of many fungi. Commercial chitin and its deacetylated form, chitosan, are currently obtained from marine waste material, mostly animal sources (crustaceans and marine invertebrates), through harsh chemical procedures that have low reproducibility due to the variability of the composition of the sources and their seasonal character. These disadvantages are overcome by using fungi as sources of chitinous polymers. The extraction of chitin/chitosan from fungi cell-walls has the great advantage of yielding products with stable composition and properties, using simpler procedures, with the added benefit of also generating CGC and ChGC, two copolymers that combine the proven properties of chitin/chitosan with those of β-glucans. Over the last decades, fungal chitinous polymers have been the focus of extensive research that included optimization of the cultivation conditions of a wide range of species and the development of optimized extraction, purification and characterization techniques, as well as the demonstration of the biopolymers' biological properties, which include immunomodulatory, anticancer, antioxidant and antimicrobial activity. Given these properties, several attempts were made to develop applications for them in areas ranging from biomedicine and pharmaceuticals to food and agriculture. Despite their wide range of proven functional properties that include the ability to form different polymeric structures, as well as biological activity, fungal chitinous biopolymers are still underexplored. Nevertheless, these biopolymers hold great potential for development into valuable products or applications that are surely worth further investigation.
- cell-wall polysaccharides
- chitin–glucan complex (CGC)
- chitosan–glucan complex (ChGC)