Maize Somatic Embryogenesis: Recent Features to Improve Plant Regeneration

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Abstract

Plant regeneration capacity is maintained through the life of a plant by the stem cell niche present in the meristems. Stem cells are capable of differentiating into any plant organ, allowing propagation of new plants by different techniques. Among them, somatic embryogenesis is a widely used technique characterized by a complex process that involves coordinated expression of genes, mediated by the influence of specific hormones, nutrients, stress, and/or environmental signals. This tool is particularly relevant in the propagation of genetically improved crops. The intrinsic embryogenic potential of the explant used as starting material for plant in vitro cultures varies depending on the genotype of each plant species. Particularly in maize, the regeneration capacity is lost during the course of tissue maturation, since embryogenic callus (E) is almost exclusively obtained from immature zygotic embryos. In this chapter, the latest advances in the literature for maize somatic embryogenesis process are reviewed. Further, a detailed procedure for maize plant regeneration from E callus is described. The callus obtained from immature zygotic embryos is capable to generate somatic embryos that germinate and develop into fertile normal plants.