Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 103, Issue 6, pp 2507–2524 | Cite as

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

  • Kevin Schmitz
  • Ryan Protzko
  • Lisha Zhang
  • J. Philipp BenzEmail author


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.


Pectin Bio-based chemicals Phytopathogenicity Gene regulation Filamentous fungi 



We would like to thank Jan van Kan (Wageningen University) and Nils Thieme (TUM) for critically reading the manuscript.

Funding information

Part of this work was funded by grant 031B0342A from the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) to JPB. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Holzforschung München, TUM School of Life Sciences WeihenstephanTechnische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany
  2. 2.Department of Molecular and Cell BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant Biochemistry, Centre for Plant Molecular BiologyEberhard Karls University TübingenTübingenGermany

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