Wrinkled 1 (wri1) Seed-Oil-Increasing Transcription Factor




Plant seed oils are used in many products, including human and animal food products, soaps, detergents, cosmetics, paints, lubricants, and to make biodiesel. Demand for vegetable oils has been increasing steadily and has been bolstered by recent interest in using these oils as renewable alternatives to petroleum fuels.


Description of Technology


Michigan State University’s invention provides a gene and method to increase oil production in plants. The wri1 gene is a transcription factor that turns on genes involved in oil production, causing the plant to increase oil production. Expression of the wri1 gene in plant parts such as leaves and stems causes these tissues to accumulate oil. Such plants may be useful as alternative biofuel crops or as forage crops with increased caloric density. Tissue specific promoters may be used to direct increased oil production in desired plant tissues.


Key Benefits

  • Increases seed oil content: Seed oil content may be increased by up to 10 percent through use of the wri1 gene.
  • Stackable: May be used with other transgenic trait genes since other plant structures and functions are not altered by over-expression of the wri1 gene. May be combined with other oil-production genes to attain additive or synergistic effects on oil production.
  • Creates new high-calorie-density forage crops: Accumulation of oil in plant leaves and stems increases the calorie content of forage crops. This may improve weight gain and productivity of livestock that are fed the improved forage.
  • New biofuel crops: Per-acre oil production is a major performance attribute of biofuel crops. This technology may be used to create plants that accumulate oil in their leaves and stems, which may greatly increase the amount of oil produced per acre. Increased seed oil content is also beneficial for biofuel production.




This technology is useful for producing plants with increased oil concentrations, especially in seeds. The invention is applicable to crops used for producing oils for food, biofuels and bioplastics feedstock, soaps, detergents, lubricants, biofuels, cosmetics, and paints.


Patent Status


U.S. patent 7,230,160; foreign patents pending




Christoph Benning, Alex Cernac


Tech ID




Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University