Research Topic

Somatic Embryogenesis: 60 Years of Research Applied to Plant Cloning to Unravel Plant Totipotency

About this Research Topic

Somatic embryogenesis is at the frontier between plant biotechnology and plant development, and can be considered both as a biotechnological tool to achieve large-scale mass propagation and a developmental model that helps understanding embryo formation and development. Since the first publications on somatic embryogenesis of carrot in 1958, this in vitro cloning tool has been applied to the mass propagation of hundreds of species, including major food crops, floral species, and fruit and industrial trees. In 2005, somatic embryogenesis has been listed among the 125 most important scientific questions – “How does a single cell become a whole plant?”.

In recent years, much progress has been made in the understanding of somatic embryogenesis, and several genes involved in the acquisition of plant totipotency and somatic embryo formation were identified. Moreover, the role of epigenetic mechanisms has emerged as a new line of research showing that DNA methylation also plays a role on somatic embryo formation. One of the major difficulties in the molecular characterization of somatic embryogenesis is that the common model plant Arabidopsis thaliana is not a good model for somatic embryogenesis induction since primary somatic embryos often show abnormal phenotypes. Thus, the need for new models is urgent, particularly for species whose genome has been sequenced.

Plant regeneration through somatic embryogenesis is a complex process that starts with the acquisition of plant totipotency - usually induced by an auxin or other stimuli, evolves through embryo development and maturation, and ends with the ability of the embryo to germinate into a whole, normal plant. During this process, many drawbacks may occur, including abnormal somatic embryo formation and difficulties of embryo germination. These drawbacks impair effective plant regeneration and breeding, and show that the optimal experimental conditions to achieve normal development are far from being completely understood.

In this framework, this Research Topic is dedicated to the most recent advances on somatic embryogenesis, both from a practical and a fundamental perspective, and coincides with 60th anniversary of the pioneering work on this subject. We encourage the submission of manuscripts related to biotechnological applications of somatic embryogenesis, such as cloning of hybrids, large scale-propagation, plant genetic transformation and cryopreservation, among others. Manuscripts dealing with the more recent advances on fundamental research on somatic embryogenesis such as genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics analysis are also welcome, as are those concerning the role of micro RNAs and epigenetic factors.

This Research Topic is a tribute to the pioneers of the study of somatic embryogenesis, Reinert, Steward, and all those who laid the foundations of this branch of plant science.


Keywords: Somatic Embryogenesis, Genomics, Proteomics, Epigenetics, Cloning


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Somatic embryogenesis is at the frontier between plant biotechnology and plant development, and can be considered both as a biotechnological tool to achieve large-scale mass propagation and a developmental model that helps understanding embryo formation and development. Since the first publications on somatic embryogenesis of carrot in 1958, this in vitro cloning tool has been applied to the mass propagation of hundreds of species, including major food crops, floral species, and fruit and industrial trees. In 2005, somatic embryogenesis has been listed among the 125 most important scientific questions – “How does a single cell become a whole plant?”.

In recent years, much progress has been made in the understanding of somatic embryogenesis, and several genes involved in the acquisition of plant totipotency and somatic embryo formation were identified. Moreover, the role of epigenetic mechanisms has emerged as a new line of research showing that DNA methylation also plays a role on somatic embryo formation. One of the major difficulties in the molecular characterization of somatic embryogenesis is that the common model plant Arabidopsis thaliana is not a good model for somatic embryogenesis induction since primary somatic embryos often show abnormal phenotypes. Thus, the need for new models is urgent, particularly for species whose genome has been sequenced.

Plant regeneration through somatic embryogenesis is a complex process that starts with the acquisition of plant totipotency - usually induced by an auxin or other stimuli, evolves through embryo development and maturation, and ends with the ability of the embryo to germinate into a whole, normal plant. During this process, many drawbacks may occur, including abnormal somatic embryo formation and difficulties of embryo germination. These drawbacks impair effective plant regeneration and breeding, and show that the optimal experimental conditions to achieve normal development are far from being completely understood.

In this framework, this Research Topic is dedicated to the most recent advances on somatic embryogenesis, both from a practical and a fundamental perspective, and coincides with 60th anniversary of the pioneering work on this subject. We encourage the submission of manuscripts related to biotechnological applications of somatic embryogenesis, such as cloning of hybrids, large scale-propagation, plant genetic transformation and cryopreservation, among others. Manuscripts dealing with the more recent advances on fundamental research on somatic embryogenesis such as genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics analysis are also welcome, as are those concerning the role of micro RNAs and epigenetic factors.

This Research Topic is a tribute to the pioneers of the study of somatic embryogenesis, Reinert, Steward, and all those who laid the foundations of this branch of plant science.


Keywords: Somatic Embryogenesis, Genomics, Proteomics, Epigenetics, Cloning


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

28 February 2018 Abstract
29 June 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

28 February 2018 Abstract
29 June 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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