DNA methylation and tissue culture-induced variation in plants

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Plant cells growing in an artificial culture environment make numerous genetic mistakes. These alterations are manifested as increased frequencies of single-gene mutations, chromosome breakages, transposable element activations, quantitative trait variations, and modifications of normal DNA methylation patterns. Evidence is presented that indicates a high frequency of DNA hypomethylation as the result of the tissue culture process. Fifteen percent of the methylation changes appear to have been homozygous in the original regenerated plants. A hypothesis is advanced that relates DNA methylation to the variety of genetic alterations found among maize tissue culture regenerants and their progenies. The epigenetic nature of DNA methylation raises questions concerning the stability of tissue culture-induced changes in self-pollinations and crosses.

Presented in the Session-in-Depth Exploitation of Plant Cell Culture Variants at the 1992 World Congress on Cell and Tissue Culture, Washington, DC, June 20–25, 1992.