Plants Expressing the Miraculin Protein, a Sweetener

Case ID: 01112


Researchers at UH-Hilo have developed a method for expressing miraculin, a flavor-altering protein, in lettuce. The protein is found naturally in berries of the miracle berry plant, Synsepalum dulcificum, and binds to sweet receptors on the tongue, temporarily producing a sweet taste for sour foods. 


The genetically engineered lettuce accumulates functional miraculin in the leaves. The researchers have also achieved stable expression of the protein that is inherited over multiple generations.


Compared to the miracle berry plant which takes years to produce fruit from its initial planting, even in tropical conditions, lettuce is fast growing and productive source that could be harvested within a month or so. The fruit yield from the berry plant is variable and highly perishable, while miraculin produced in lettuce could be generated quicker, and may have a longer shelf life than the berries. Production of lettuce is also easily and rapidly scalable, and can be grown hydroponically. 




• Miraculin is known to cause flavor-altering effects, including making sour foods taste sweet after consumption. Lemons, limes, and vinegar, for example, can taste sweet for a period of time due to the effects of miraculin.  Miraculin has therefore been considered for use as an artificial sweetener and sugar substitute, and may be applicable in medical and food applications, including for diabetics, weight loss efforts, and countering the undesirable taste of certain medicines.

• This is an alternate method for rapidly producing miraculin in lettuce leaves rather than growing, extracting and purifying miraculin from S. dulcificum berries.




• Lettuce is a compact and fast growing plant when compared with S. dulcificum, the miracle berry plant.

• Miraculin protein expression is stable and is inherited over multiple generations using this method developed by our inventors.



Patent Status 

Patent pending

Patent Information:
Michael Shintaku
Lukas Kambic

For information, contact:
Kenneth Takeuchi
Technology Licensing Associate
University of Hawaii
(808) 956-9749

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