Plant Cell Biotechnology

Volume 18 of the series NATO ASI Series pp 21-41

Somatic Hybridization of Plants and its Use in Agriculture

  • John D. HamillAffiliated withPlant Biotechnology Group, (Norwich Laboratory), Institute of Food Research
  • , Edward C. CockingAffiliated withDept. of Botany, University of Nottingham

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Since Carlson et al. (1972) first reported the successful recovery of somatic hybrid plants, very many protoplast fusion experiments have been done. These have ranged from experiments aimed at answering fundamental questions on the interaction of different plant genomes following fusion to practical questions regarding the improvement of crop species by fusion with wild species possessing desirable agronomic traits. The agricultural applications of protoplast fusion are now beginning to be realised and although the recent successes in plant transformation offer many new opportunities in plant genetic engineering for crop improvement, it is clear that protoplast fusion does have an important role to play in practical plant biotechnology.

In this article we discuss the methodologies needed to recover somatic hybrids, their key features and some examples of somatic hybrids which are proving useful in agriculture. It should be noted that there exists a huge literature on protoplast fusion and only a limited number of examples are quoted in each section.