Introduction to plant tissue culture

Plant tissue culture (PTC) is a generic term for techniques used to maintain or multiply plant cells, tissues or organs under sterile conditions on a defined nutrient culture medium.

A key element in plant tissue culture is the ability of plant cells to regenerate a whole plant (totipotency). It allows a regeneration e.g. from single cells or plant cells without cell walls (protoplasts), pieces of leaves, stems or roots.

Plant tissue culture is widely used to produce clones of a plant (micropropagation). Different techniques in plant tissue culture can be advantageous over traditional methods of propagation.

A large number of available methods leads to a high count of different ways to establish and perform plant tissue culture. Several factors are critical for success and choice of the method, e.g. suitable plant organ or tissue to initiate cultures have to be selected, cleaning & sterilization processes must be evaluated, properly culture media need to be adapted on plants requirements and development stages. Complete asepsis must be maintained until the plants are ready for the acclimatization. PTC requires an experienced and observant eye to select tissues for subculture. In many cases it involves a scientific approach to systematically optimize parameters: Physical (substrate, pH, lighting, temperature and humidity), chemical (culture medium formulation including nutrients, additives, organic substances like vitamins and growth regulators), biological (source of the explant, its size and vitality), and environmental (gaseous environment inside the culture vial) parameters need consideration to achieve the desired growth, differentiation and development or cellular metabolism.

Plant tissue culture applications

  • Technologies for crop improvement
    • polyploidy
    • in vitro fertilization
    • embryo rescue of hybrids
    • selection of variants
  • Micropropagation (clonal mass propagation)
  • Elimination of pathogens
  • Conservation of Germplasm
  • Production of plant-made pharmaceuticals (PMPs) or industrial phytochemicals
  • regeneration of plants for genetic engineering or cell fusions / somatic hybridizations