Transcription factors to improve plant resistance to insects


Executive Summary


As sessile organisms, plants must be able to adapt swiftly to biotic and environmental stimuli, and often do this through transcriptional reprogramming. Upon wounding by a ravenous insect, for instance, jasmonic acid (JA) increases in concentration within a cell and interacts with members of the JAZ family of repressor proteins. Ultimately, JA-response genes will be activated and direct plant resources towards defense. Attempts to keep these defense signals on, however, are met with many hurdles including strong growth repression resulting in stunted or small plants. MSU researchers have addressed these issues through a gene editing or genetically engineering approach, delivering a phenotype of ‘Relief of Repression’, where a plant’s defense system is turned on and the plant displays normal growth.


Description of Technology


This MSU technology describes bioengineered plants, plant cells, and seeds with improved resistance to environmental stresses such as drought and insects. The modified genes help not only against pests but can also allow increased production of plant-derived medicinal compounds promoted by the JA-pathway. This invention is a set of modified MYC transcription factors. When expressed in plants, the proteins act in a dominant fashion to activate the JA-signaling pathway, leading to enhanced insect resistance. A second gene, phyB, is knocked out to avoid growth repression caused by over-expression of the JA response. The resulting plants exhibit superior defense and normal growth simultaneously.


Key Benefits

  • Improved defense response and resistance to insects.
  • Enhanced production of secondary metabolites in JA pathway.
  • Increased plant defense without growth inhibition.
  • Resistance to environmental stressors



  • Pest and drought resistant crops
  • Cell lines with high(er) yield for medicinal compounds (e.g. Taxol)


Patent Status:


Patent application published, no. WO2018039590. US, BR, CA, and EP national phase applications pending.


Licensing Rights Available:


Full licensing rights available




Greg Howe


Tech ID:




Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University