A Novel Enzyme from Solanum Habrochaites that Synthesizes Sesquiterpenes




Zingiberene is a sesquiterpene produced by many plant species including ginger, turmeric, cultivated tomato, and its wild relatives. It is synthesized at particularly high levels in the trichomes of certain accessions of the wild tomato species Solanum habrochaites and is a potent insect repellent. The identification of a gene from S. habrochaites that synthesizes zingiberene provides an opportunity to directly control the synthesis of the chemical in other plant species to improve resistance to insect pests.


Description of Technology


Michigan State University’s technology is a novel enzyme from the wild tomato species Solanum habrochaites that synthesizes a mixture of sesquiterpenes (C15 compounds). These volatile compounds (primarily zingiberene) are known to repel insects. The proposed gene that synthesizes zingiberene gives the host plant insect resistance. The gene provides resistance to whiteflies and thrips, which are not controlled well by current Bt transgenic plant technology.


Key Benefits

  • Insecticide and insect repellent: Zingiberene in conjunction with small concentration of assorted terpenes both repels insects and kills any insect feeders.
  • Alternative synthesizing enzyme: The proposed enzyme is capable of synthesizing zingiberene utilizing a gene from S. habrochaites. Current natural sources of zingiberene are ginger and turmeric root.
  • High product specificity: Zingiberene is the primary product of the gene, constituting greater than 95 percent of the total sesquiterpenes produced by the enzyme.



  • Insect resistant crops
  • Supplements market
  • Flavors/fragrances


Patent Status


Patent pending




Cornelius Barry, Eliana Gonzales-Vigil


Tech ID




Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University