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Research article2000Peer reviewed

Developmental pathway of somatic embryogenesis in Picea abies as revealed by time-lapse tracking.

Filonova, LH; Bozhkov, PV; von Arnold, S


Several coniferous species can be propagated via somatic embryogenesis. This is a useful method for clonal propagation, but it can also be used for studying how embryo development is regulated in conifers. However, in conifers it is not known to what extent somatic and zygotic embryos develop similarly, because there has been little research on the origin and development of somatic embryos. A time-lapse tracking technique has been set up, and the development of more than 2000 single cells and few-celled aggregates isolated from embryogenic suspension cultures of Norway spruce (Picea abies L. Karst.) and embedded in thin layers of agarose has been traced. Experiments have shown that somatic embryos develop from proembryogenic masses which pass through a series of three characteristic stages distinguished by cellular organization and cell number (stages I, II and III) to transdifferentiate to somatic embryos. Microscopic inspection of different types of structures has revealed that proembryogenic masses are characterized by high interclonal variation of shape and cellular constitution. In contrast, somatic embryos are morphologically conservative structures, possessing a distinct protoderm-like cell layer as well as embryonal tube cells and suspensor. The lack of staining of the arabinogalactan protein epitope recognized by the monoclonal antibody JIM13 was shown to be an efficient marker for distinguishing proembryogenic masses from somatic embryos. The vast majority of cells in proembryogenic masses expressed this epitope and none of cells in the early somatic embryos. The conditions that promote cell proliferation (i.e. the presence of exogenous auxin and cytokinin), inhibit somatic embryo formation; instead, continuous multiplication of stage I proembryogenic masses by unequal division of embryogenic cells with dense cytoplasm is the prevailing process. Once somatic embryos have formed, their further development to mature forms requires abscisic acid and shares a common histodifferentiation pattern with zygotic embryos. Although the earliest stages of somatic embryo development comparable to proembryogeny could not be characterized, the subsequent developmental processes correspond closely to what occurs in the course of early and late zygotic embryogeny. A model for somatic embryogenesis pathways in Picea abies is presented.


Picea abies; proembryogenic mass; somatic embryo; time-lapse cell tracking

Published in

Journal of Experimental Botany
2000, Volume: 51, number: 343, pages: 249-264

      SLU Authors

    • Stålhandske, Lada

      • Department of Forest Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • Bozhkov, Peter

        • Department of Forest Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
        • Von Arnold, Sara

          • Department of Forest Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

        UKÄ Subject classification

        Forest Science

        Publication identifier


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