Somaclonal variation
Somaclonal variation It is the term used to describe the variation seen in plants that have been produced by plant tissue culture
Plant tissue culture
Plant tissue culture is a collection of techniques used to maintain or grow plant cells, tissues or organs under sterile conditions on a nutrient culture medium of known composition. Plant tissue culture is widely used to produce clones of a plant in a method known as micropropagation...

. Chromosomal
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.Chromosomes...

 rearrangements are an important source of this variation.

Somaclonal variation is not restricted to, but is particularly common in plants regenerated from callus
Callus (cell biology)
Plant callus is a mass of undifferentiated cells derived from plant tissue for use in biological research and biotechnology. In plant biology, callus cells are those cells that cover a plant wound. To induce callus formation, plant tissues are surface sterilized and then plated onto in vitro...

. The variations can be genotypic or phenotypic, which in the latter case can be either genetic or epigenetic in origin. Typical genetic alterations are: changes in chromosome numbers (polyploidy
Polyploid is a term used to describe cells and organisms containing more than two paired sets of chromosomes. Most eukaryotic species are diploid, meaning they have two sets of chromosomes — one set inherited from each parent. However polyploidy is found in some organisms and is especially common...

 and aneuploidy
Aneuploidy is an abnormal number of chromosomes, and is a type of chromosome abnormality. An extra or missing chromosome is a common cause of genetic disorders . Some cancer cells also have abnormal numbers of chromosomes. Aneuploidy occurs during cell division when the chromosomes do not separate...

), chromosome structure (translocations, deletions, insertions and duplications) and DNA sequence (base mutations). Typical epigenetic related events are: gene amplification and gene methylation.

If no visual, morphogenic changes are apparent, other plant screening procedures must be applied. There are both benefits and disadvantages to somaclonal variation. The phenomenon of high variability in individuals from plant cell cultures or adventitious shoots has been named somaclonal variation.


The major likely benefit of somaclonal variation in plant is improvement. Somaclonal variation leads to the creation of additional genetic variability. Characteristics for which somaclonal mutants can be enriched during in vitro culture includes resistance to disease pathotoxins, herbicides and tolerance to environmental or chemical stress, as well as for increased production of secondary metabolites. Micropropagation can be carried out throughout the year independent of the seasons.


A serious disadvantage of somaclonal variation occurs in operations which require clonal uniformity, as in the horticulture and forestry industries where tissue culture is employed for rapid propagation of elite genotypes.
Ways of reducing somaclonal variation: Different steps can be used. It is well known that increasing numbers of subculture increases the likelihood of somaclonal variation, so the number of subcultures in micropropagation protocols should be kept to a minimum. Regular reinitiation of clones from new explants might reduce variability over time. Another way of reducing somaclonal variation is to avoid 2,4-D
2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid
2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid is a common systemic pesticide/herbicide used in the control of broadleaf weeds. It is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and the third most commonly used in North America...

in the culture medium, as this hormone is known to introduce variation.Vitrification[hyperhydracity] may be a problem in some species. In case of forest trees, mature elite trees can be identified and rapidly cloned by this technique.

High production cost has limited the application of this technique to more valuable ornamental crops and some fruit trees.
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