Use of Scaffold Proteins to Improve Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Plants

Use of Scaffold Proteins to Improve Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Plants

Technology Description

The invention is a gene modification in plants to increase nitrogen uptake under low nitrogen conditions. It is a method of selecting for mutants using genetic markers as opposed to transgenic plant. When the genes identified are under expressed or knocked-out, plants such as Arabidopsis and Oryza sativa (rice) increase nitrogen uptake, assimilation and NUE (nitrogen use efficiency). Nitrogen fertilizers are a major agricultural pollutant and the use of the mutants described here in crop production would decrease the need, and therefore the use, of these fertilizers. Incorporation of these crops would also be more economical for farmers. The use of non-transgenic plants would be met with less resistance (political and environmental) since transgenic plants have negative connotations for some segments of the human population.


  • Enhance nitrogen-use efficiency
  • Increase crop yield


  • Non-transgenic (genetic markers can be used to find mutants in breeding populations)
  • Reduces the need and use of fertilizers
  • Reduces environmental impact of N-fertilizer use.
  • Increases crop productivity.
  • Increases nitrogen assimilation under low nitrogen conditions.
  • Reduces farmers’ costs.
  • Positive political and view of new crops as environmentally friendly.

Stage of Development

Validated in laboratory conditions in the plant model system Arabidopsis thaliana as well as the crop model system Oryza sativa.

Patent status

Under development


Rodrigo A. Gutiérrez (Faculty of Biological Sciences) and Viviana Araus (Faculties of Agriculture and Biological Sciences)

Dr. Rodrigo A. Gutiérrez is an expert in Plant Systems Biology, Plant Genomics and Bioinformatics. Dr. Gutiérrez is Associate Professor and Chair at the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (DGMM-PUC). Dr. Gutiérrez is the Director of the Millennium Nucleus Center for Plant Systems and Synthetic Biology and the only Chilean distinguished with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Early Career Scientist award. Dr Gutiérrez has published more than 50 manuscripts in prestigious journals. Additionally, he has been named inventor in 2 granted patents and 3 patent applications, one of which has been successfully licensed to a leading agrochemical company.

Business Opportunities

  • Available for licensing to an existing Company; or
  • Seeking for investment in eventual Spin-Off Company.

Related Information

Gutierrez Lab web site (includes research lines and publications)

For more information please contact

Magali Maida
Deputy Director Office of Transfer and Development.
Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
e-mail: /
phone: +56 2 2354 1041/skype: magali.maida

Patricia Anguita
Deputy Manager of Innovation Projects.
Fundacion COPEC – UC
e-mail: /
phone: +56 2 2354 2092/skype: patricia.anguita