- • The genetic potential of ectomycorrhizal fungi to produce N-acetylhexosaminidases was investigated here. N-acetylhexosaminidases are enzymes that cleave monosaccharides from oligomers of N-acetylhexosamines and play an important role in the degradation of chitin.
- • Degenerate PCR-primers were designed against genes coding for N-acetylhexosaminidases in basidiomycetes. PCR was performed with DNA templates extracted from sporocarps of 26 ectomycorrhizal fungal species and two saprotrophs.
- • PCR-products were obtained from 18 species representing 12 genera distributed throughout the basidiomycete phylogeny. Sequencing confirmed that the products were homologous with N-acetylhexosaminidase genes from plants, animals and other fungi. Some species yielded two PCR-products representing isoenzymes.
- • Chitin constitutes a potentially important nitrogen source in soil. Our results demonstrate that a wide range of ectomycorrhizal fungi have the genetic potential to produce N-acetylhexosaminidases, and the expression of this potential would enable them to exploit polymers of amino sugars as a source of nitrogen for themselves and their host plants.