A Mississippi martial arts instructor arrested early this morning has been charged with possession of the biological agent ricin and with attempting to use it as a weapon, the US Department of Justice announced.

James Everett Dutschke, age 41, was arrested following searches of his home and a former business.

The searches were part of an investigation into ricin-laced letters sent to President Barack Obama and two other public officials, including Republican Senator Roger Wicker.

Mr Dutschke was taken into custody by FBI agents at his Tupelo home early this without incident, FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said in a statement.

If convicted, Mr Dutschke faces maximum possible penalties of life imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and five years of supervised release.

Mr Dutschke is expected to appear in the United States District Court in Oxford, Mississippi, on Monday.