FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed May 19 16:42:03 EDT 2010

Proteins in unroasted coffee beans may become next-generation insecticides

Scientists in Brazil are reporting for the first time that coffee beans contain proteins that can kill insects and might be developed into new insecticides for protecting food crops against destructive pests. Their study, which suggests a new use for one of the most important tropical crops in the world, appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication: “Purification of Legumin-Like Proteins from Coffea arabica and Coffea racemosa Seeds and Their Insecticidal Properties toward Cowpea Weevil (Caliosobruchus maculates) (Coleoptera: Bruchidae)”.

Peas, beans and some other plant seeds contain proteins, called globulins, which ward off insects. Coffee beans contain large amounts of globulins, and Paulo Mazzafera and colleagues wondered whether those coffee proteins might also have an insecticidal effect. The high heat of roasting destroys globulins, so that they do not appear in brewed coffee.

Their tests against cowpea weevil larva, insects used as models for studying the insecticidal activity of proteins, showed that tiny amounts of the coffee proteins quickly killed up to half of the insects. In the future, scientists could insert genes for these insect-killing proteins into important food crops, such as grains, so that plants produce their own insecticides, the researchers suggest. The proteins appear harmless to people.

Contact

Science Inquiries: Michael Woods, Editor, 202-872-6293
General Inquiries
: Michael Bernstein, 202-872-6042

Unroasted coffee beans contain
proteins that kill insects, a finding
that may lead to new insecticides
for protecting food crops.
Credit: Fernando Rebelo,
Wikimedia Commons

(High-resolution version)