Somatic embryogenesis, the process in which embryos, similar in morphology to their zygotic counterparts, are induced to develop in culture from somatic cells, is a suitable model system for investigating the regulation of embryo development. Through this process, a large number of embryos at defined stages of development can easily be obtained. Somatic embryogenesis in Norway spruce is comprised of a sequence of steps including initiation, proliferation, early embryo formation, embryo maturation, desiccation and germination. To execute this pathway, a number of critical physical and chemical treatments should be applied with proper timing. Embryogenic cell lines of Norway spruce are initiated from zygotic embryos. The cell lines proliferate as proembryogenic masses (PEMs) in the presence of auxin and cytokinin. Early somatic embryos develop from PEMs after withdrawal of auxin and cytokinin. PEM to somatic embryo transition is a key developmental switch that determines the yield and quality of mature somatic embryos. The embryos develop further, to a stage corresponding to late embryogeny, in the presence of abscisic acid. Some cell lines deviate from normal pattern formation exhibiting developmental arrest at certain stages. These arrested cell lines, together with transgenic lines, are valuable tools for studying embryo development. Particle bombardment is routinely used to produce transgenic plants of Norway spruce.
KeywordsConifers cryopreservation embryogenesis gene transfer gymno-sperms Norway spruce
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