Living Reference Work Entry

Plant Toxins

Part of the series Toxinology pp 1-34

Date: Latest Version

Entomotoxic Plant Proteins: Potential Molecules to Develop Genetically Modified Plants Resistant to Insect-Pests

  • Maria Fátima Grossi-de-SáAffiliated withEmbrapa Genetic Resources and BiotechnologyProgram for Genomic Sciences and Biotechnology, Catholic University of Brasilia Email author 
  • , Patrícia B. PelegriniAffiliated withDiagene Molecular Diagnosis
  • , Ilka M. VasconcelosAffiliated withLaboratory of Plant Toxins, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Federal University of Ceará
  • , Célia R. CarliniAffiliated withInstituto do Cérebro, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do SulDept. Biophysics and Center of Biotechnology, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
  • , Marilia S. SilvaAffiliated withEmbrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology Email author 


Insect-pests are detrimental to several crops worldwide and cause significant economic losses in global agriculture. The effective control of insect-pests in agriculture demands different strategies, which vary from preventive cultural practices, mechanical control, chemical control, biological control, and the use of resistant plant varieties. When there is no natural plant genotype genetically resistant to insect-pests, development of genetically modified (GM) resistant plants is an option. The expression of bacterial Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) entomotoxins in GM plants has been successfully applied in field conditions over the past few decades. Nevertheless, there are alternative entomotoxic proteins from plant sources, which may be synergistically used in the GM plant Bt strategy for the control of insect-pests. This review presents the biochemical properties and mechanisms of action of the most commonly described plant protein entomotoxins, including lectins, enzymes (ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs), ureases and urease-derived encrypted peptides, chitinases and proteases/peptidases/proteinases), inhibitors of insect digestive enzymes (protease inhibitors and α-amylase inhibitors), and peptides (defensins and cyclotides). In addition, this review discusses the potential application of plant entomotoxic proteins to develop durable control of insect-pests via GM plant strategies.


Transgenic plant Lectins Plant enzymes Inhibitors of insect digestive enzymes Insecticidal peptides