A group of researchers* have introduced several genes into Nicotiana benthamiana, a relative of tobacco. These genes encode proteins that complete all the biochemical steps in the production of the sex pheromone components of ermine moths. All the inserted genes are appropriately expressed and the GMO plants now produce moth sex pheromone.
The pheromone produced by the plants was collected and is effective in trapping male moths. This opens several possibilities. 1. Plants may be useful as “chemical factories” to produce commercial pheromones. 2. Plants may be useful as trap crops for pest control. If the pheromone producing plants could attract all the males from a nearby field, they might be able to suppress mating. This would be most effective at low pest populations.
*Bao-Jian Ding, Per Hofvander, Hong-Lei Wang, Timothy P. Durrett, Sten Stymne & Christer Löfstedt. A plant factory for moth pheromone production. Nature Communications 5, Article number: 3353