Novel Protease Inhibitors Provide Disease Resistance in Potatoes

Potatoes in the ground

Available for Licensing
TRL: 4

IP Status

US Utility Patent Pending (Not Yet Published)


Adam Heuberger
Amy Charkowski
Janak Joshi

At A Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have identified novel protease inhibitors from a wild potato species that provide disease resistance and may be used for anti-microbial applications in food production. Methods and compositions are proprietary.

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Licensing Director

Jillian Lang

Reference No.:  Tech ID # 2020-064


Potato is a major staple crop, and necrotrophic bacterial pathogens such as Pectobacterium sp. and Dickeya sp. are a major threats to potato production and therefore, global food security. These diseases cause over $40 million in annual loss to the US potato industry alone. Most lines of cultivated potato (Solanum tuberosum) are susceptible to soft rot caused by these pathogens however, certain lines of wild potato have been found to be resistant.

When these resistant potato lines are inoculated with soft rot bacterial pathogens, bacteria are observed to remain alive within the stem tissue, but disease does not occur. It is understood that soft rot bacteria such as Pectobacterium sp. have several known pathogenicity factors, including the production of cell wall degrading enzymes (cellulases, pectinases, proteases, etc.) that break open plant cells and ultimately enable the bacteria to establish and grow. However, specific resistance genes have yet to be discovered. In addition, there are currently no reliable chemistries available to prevent these diseases.

Technology Overview

Using a multi-omic approach, protein extracts isolated from resistant stem and tuber tissues have been found to inhibit the ability for bacteria to produce cellulases, pectases, and proteases. Subsequent proteomic characterization of these extracts have indicated an abundance of protease inhibitors. Genomic analysis of resistant and non-resistant potato lines further support that the resistant variety encodes several protease inhibitor genes absent in non-resistant varieties, as well as coding sequence differences in the protease inhibitors that are common between the species. Taken together, these data support that the protein extract discovered here is not only novel, but also that the trait can be transferred into domestic potato varieties to provide resistance to soft rot pathogens.

Furthermore, these protease inhibitors can be isolated and manufactured for applications in food safety and agricultural production as anti-microbial compounds. Research is underway to determine the impact on human bacterial pathogens.

  • Baseline genetic resistance to soft rot in potatoes
  • Anti-microbial products for human, plant and animal pathogens
  • Integrating genetic resistance to soft rot pathogens potato and related crops
  • Anti-microbial products for food safety
Last updated: February 2022
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Soft rot resistance, Pathogen resistance, potato, antimicrobial, protease inhibitor, plant disease

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