, Volume 81, Issue 1, pp 93-107

Secondary somatic embryogenesis and applications in plant breeding

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Secondary somatic embryogenesis is the phenomenon whereby new somatic embryos are initiated from somatic embryos. Such cultures have been described in at least 80 Gymnosperm and Angiosperm species. In the initial step (primary somatic embryogenesis) such cultures have to be started from plant explants. In general, primary somatic embryogenesis from vegetative plant explants is, indirect and mostly driven by auxin (AUX) or auxin and cytokinin (AUX/CYT) supplemented media, whereas, from zygotic embryos it is direct and driven, to a larger extent, by CYT or growth regulator free media. Primary somatic embryogenesis from floral plant explants is between these two extremes. Indirect and direct somatic embryogenesis should be seen as two extremes of one continuum: in indirect somatic embryogenesis the embryos develop up to the (pre)-globular stage and in direct somatic embryogenesis to mature stages before they are subjected to secondary embryogenesis. In general, secondary embryogenesis requires no growth regulators in species with CYT driven primary embryogenesis. Whereas, continuous exposure to growth regulators is needed in species with CYT/AUX or AUX driven primary embryogenesis.

In most species somatic embryos can be converted into shoots, although the frequencies are mostly low. In general, somatic embryos induced by growth regulator free or CYT supplemented media meet more difficulties in shoot development than embryos induced by AUX supplemented media. Applications of secondary somatic embryogenesis for plant breeding are discussed.