Engineered WRINKLED1 Transcription Factor with Increased Stability and Enhanced Oil Production



Plant oils, primarily seed oils, are major agricultural commodities.  The world consumption of plant oils in 2013 was 165 million tonnes, which represents an increase of 100 million tonnes since 1995.  The majority of vegetable oils are produced from just four crops, oil palm, soybeans, rapeseed, and sunflower, which together accounts for approximately 79% of the total plant oil production. The majority of plant oil production (>80%) is consumed in the food industry (cooking oils, nutraceuticals).  There are emerging markets for plant oils such as lubricants, industrial greases, mechanical oils, detergents, cosmetics, and solvents.  Additionally, much research and development has focused on creating liquid fuel as a petroleum replacement.

In developing high oil crops, a transcription factor, WRINKLED-1 (WRI1), was discovered as a key regulator of plant oil biosynthesis in maturing seeds.  Overexpression of WRl1 or other orthologs increases oil content in seeds of transgenic plants including Arabidopsis, B. napus (rapeseed) Z. Mays (maize), and tobacco leaves (transient expression).  WRI1 regulates the protein expression of fatty acid synthesis (but not subsequent fatty acid modification or further TAG assembly) in maturing seeds.  However, its effect is limited by protein degradation.  WRI1 protein degradation limits how long WRI1 can activate the transcription of fatty acid biosynthesis enzymes and in turn how much oil can be produced.  A WRI1 mutant that is more stable (i.e. resistant to degradation) could further enhance oil production in plants. 


Description of Technology


This technology utilizes a modified WRI1 transcription factor protein to enhance seed oil and non-seed tissue oil production.  This technology increases the stability of WRI1 which allows for WRI1 to drive constitutive expression of the fatty acid biosynthesis proteins at higher levels than native WRI1.  WRI1 overexpression enhances the total lipid content of the expressing plant tissue.  Target plant tissues include seeds or leaves.  The latter may be especially beneficial for forage applications, and may also be useful for biodiesel production.


Key Benefits

  • Higher lipid yields per seed or biomass



  • Enhance seed oil crops
  • Oil yield from conventional biomass waste
  • Enhance vegetative oil content


Patent Status


Patent application published no. 20170002371


Licensing Rights Available


Non-exclusive licensing rights available.




John Ohlrogge, Christoph Benning, Wei Ma, Que Kong


Tech ID




Learn more about the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) at MSU 


Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University