(1) A polymer of nitrogen-containing polysaccharide [(C8H13O5N)n] rendering a tough, protective covering or structural support in certain organisms.

(2) A polysaccharide which makes up the cell walls of fungi and exoskeleton of insects


Examples of organisms with chitin are the arthropods in their exoskeletons, some arachnids in their hard outer covering, molluscs in their radula, cephalopods in their beaks, and some fungi species in their cell walls.

Chitin resembles keratin (protein component in human hair and nails) in structural function. It differs from keratin through its carbohydrate (polysaccharide) structural component.

Word origin: Latin chitōn, mollusk

Related forms: chitinous (adjective)

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