Plant Produced Moth Pheromones

Ermine Moth

Ermine Moth

Genetically modified plants currently used in insect pest control primarily produce protein toxins, such as the Bacillus thuringiensis toxins. Only a single gene needs to be inserted in the plant genome to have the plant produce a BT toxin. There has been less focus on production of non-protein control agents because the insertion of multiple genes is required. That focus may be changing.

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

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, Biomaterials, by jjneal, Pest Management. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s