Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 197-214

First online:

Somaclonal variation — a novel source of variability from cell cultures for plant improvement

  • P. J. LarkinAffiliated withDivision of Plant Industry, CSIRO
  • , W. R. ScowcroftAffiliated withDivision of Plant Industry, CSIRO

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It is concluded from a review of the literature that plant cell culture itself generates genetic variability (somaclonal variation). Extensive examples are discussed of such variation in culture subclones and in regenerated plants (somaclones). A number of possible mechanisms for the origin of this phenomenon are considered. It is argued that this variation already is proving to be of significance for plant improvement. In particular the phenomenon may be employed to enhance the exchange required in sexual hybrids for the introgression of desirable alien genes into a crop species. It may also be used to generate variants of a commercial cultivar in high frequency without hybridizing to other genotypes.

Key words

Plant cell culture Somaclones Interspecific hybrids Gene amplification Virus elimination