Letter | Published:

Somatic embryogenesis from Sorghum bicolor leaves

Naturevolume 287pages138139 (1980) | Download Citation



Plant regeneration from totipotent cultured cells or protoplasts is a prerequisite for the often proposed genetic modification of plants through somatic cell genetics, and has been achieved in many species. The cereals (and the rest of the Gramineae) have, however, proved to be extremely unresponsive to in vitro culture techniques1. The most convenient source of plant protoplasts is the leaf tissue because it allows the isolation of a large, relatively uniform cell population without the necessity of killing the plant. However, despite considerable efforts, sustained cell division has never been obtained from cereal leaf blade protoplasts2. Thus, a crucial question arises of whether leaf cells from cereals are actually totipotent and consequently, whether they can be useful for somatic cell genetics. We now report that young leaf tissue of a cereal can express totipotency even to the extent of forming somatic embryos. However, the ability to respond is rapidly lost during leaf maturation. We think that this phenomenon can explain many difficulties faced in cereal tissue culture. Moreover, the leaf culture we describe may help to ascertain whether mature cereal cells are merely no longer competent (in the sense of Halperin3) to respond to tested in vitro conditions or whether they actually lose their totipotency.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Thomas, E., King, P. J. & Potrykus, L. Z. PflZücht. 82, 1–30 (1979).

  2. 2

    Potrykus, I. in Advances in Protoplast Research (eds Ferenczy, L. & Farkas, G. L.) 243–254 (Pergamon, Oxford, and Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, 1980).

  3. 3

    Halperin, W. A. Rev. Pl. Physiol. 20, 395–418 (1969).

  4. 4

    Thomas, E., King, P. J. & Potrykus, I. Naturwissenschaften 64, 587 (1977).

  5. 5

    Brettell, R., Wernicke, W. & Thomas, E. Protoplasma (in the press).

  6. 6

    Murashige, T. & Skoog, F. Physiol. Pl. 15, 473–497 (1962).

  7. 7

    King, P. J., Potrykus, I. & Thomas, E. Physiol. Veg. 16, 381–399 (1978).

  8. 8

    Sharman, B. C. Ann. Bot. 6, 245–284 (1942).

  9. 9

    Kaufmann, P. B. Phytomorphology 9, 277–311 (1959).

  10. 10

    Thomas, E., Brettel, R. & Wernicke, W. in Advances in Protoplast Research (eds Ferenczy, L. & Farkas, G. L.) 269–273 (Pergamon, Oxford, and Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, 1980).

  11. 11

    Wu, L. & Li, H. W. Cytologia 36, 411–416 (1971).

  12. 12

    Saalbach, G. & Koblitz, H. Pl. Sci. Lett. 13, 165–169 (1978).

  13. 13

    O'Hara, J. F. & Street, H. E. Ann. Bot. 42, 1029–1038 (1978).

Download references

Author information


  1. Friedrich Miescher-Institut, PO Box 273, CH-4002, Basle, Switzerland

    • Wolfgang Wernicke
    •  & Richard Brettell


  1. Search for Wolfgang Wernicke in:

  2. Search for Richard Brettell in:

About this article

Publication history



Issue Date



Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.