DNA mutagenesis in 2- and 20-yr-old Panax ginseng cell cultures
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Previously, Panax ginseng var. Mimaki C.A. Meyer had been shown to accumulate genetic mutations during long-term propagation of a callus culture over a period of 20 yr. In this study, we analyzed the mutation types and frequency in a 2-yr-old P. ginseng callus culture and compared it with the 20-yr-old callus culture, and leaves of cultivated plants. We analyzed the sequence variability between the Actin genes, which are a family of housekeeping genes; phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL) and dammarenediol synthase (DDS), which actively participate in the biosynthesis of ginsenosides; and the somatic embryogenesis receptor kinases (SERK), which control plant development. The frequency of point mutations in the Actin, PAL, DDS, and SERK genes in the 2-yr-old P. ginseng callus culture was markedly higher than in cultivated plants, but lower than in the 20-yr-old callus culture. Most of the mutations in the 2-yr-old P. ginseng calli were A↔G and T↔C transitions, as in the 20-yr-old calli and intact P. ginseng plants. The number of nonsynonymous mutations was higher in the 2- and 20-yr-old callus cultures than the number of nonsynonymous mutations in cultivated P. ginseng. Interestingly, the total number of N→G or N→C substitutions in the analyzed genes was 1.6 times higher than the total number of N→A or N→T substitutions. Using a methylation-sensitive DNA fragmentation assay, we showed the level of methylcytosine to be higher in the DNA of the 20-yr-old P. ginseng calli that than in the DNA of the 2-yr-old cultures.