Proteinase inhibitors have been used to increase resistance to insect pests in transgenic plants. A cDNA clone encoding a multi-domain proteinase inhibitor precursor from Nicotiana alata (Na-PI) was transferred into tobacco and peas under the control of a promoter from a ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase small subunit gene. The Na-PI precursor was cleaved in the leaves of transgenic tobacco and peas, and Mr 6000 polypeptides accumulated to levels of 0.3% and 0.1%, respectively, of the total soluble protein. The Na-PI cDNA segregated as a dominant Mendelian trait and was stably transmitted for at least two generations of both species. Helicoverpa armigera larvae that ingested tobacco or pea leaves containing Na-PI exhibited higher mortality or were delayed in growth and development relative to control larvae.