Chitinases in terrestrial plants have been reported these are involved in heavy metal tolerance/detoxification. This is the first attempt to reveal chitinase gene (AcCHI I) and its function on metal detoxification in mangroves Aegiceras corniculatum. RT-PCR and RACE techniques were used to clone AcCHI I, while real-time quantitative PCR was employed to assess AcCHI I mRNA expressions in response to Cadmium (Cd). The deduced AcCHI I protein consists of 316 amino acids, including a signal peptide region, a chitin-binding domain (CBD) and a catalytic domain. Protein homology modeling was performed to identify potential features in AcCHI I. The CBD structure of AcCHI I might be critical for metal tolerance/homeostasis of the plant. Clear tissue-specific differences in AcCHI I expression were detected, with higher transcript levels detected in leaves. Results demonstrated that a short duration of Cd exposure (e.g., 3 days) promoted AcCHI I expression in roots. Upregulated expression was also detected in leaves under 10 mg/kg Cd concentration stress. The present study demonstrates that AcCHI I may play an important role in Cd tolerance/homeostasis in the plant. Further studies of the AcCHI I protein, gene overexpression, the promoter and upstream regulation will be necessary for clarifying the functions of AcCHI I.