Use of Arginase in Plant Protection Against Herbivores

Gregg Howe, Hui Chen

Insect pests are a major cause of damage to the world’s commercially important agricultural crops. Current strategies aimed at reducing crop losses rely primarily on chemical pesticides. Transgenic crops with intrinsic pest resistance offer a potential alternative.

The Invention

Michigan State University’s invention provides an alternative to chemical pesticides by producing plants with an enhanced resistance to insect pests. Arginase and threonine deaminase, which are produced in plant tissues, are enzymes that degrade amino acids essential for insect growth. These enzymes do not affect amino acid concentrations until the enzymes are activated in the insect gut. Overproduction of arginase and/or threonine deaminase in plants provides enhanced resistance to arthropod herbivores by acting as an anti-nutritive defense against phytophagous insects.

Key Benefits
  • Reduces need for chemical pesticides: The invention will reduce the amount of chemical pesticides needed to control plant herbivores.
  • All organisms contain arginase and threonine-deaminase-encoding genes: The genes used in this method are present in all organisms and, therefore, may not be considered a foreign gene in the context of genetically modified plants.
  • Alternative or complement to Bt: These genes use an insect-control mechanism different from Bt, which is the current GMO standard for insect control. Therefore, these genes may be useful for control of insects that are resistant to or poorly controlled by Bt. These genes may also be used to improve the level of control provided by Bt genes.
  • This invention has applications for the agriculture biotechnology industry as an alternative to chemical pesticides.
Technology Contact

Thomas Herlache, Assistant Director, Michigan State University,

Sustainable Bioenergy Cropping Systems