Basics of Plant Tissue Culture

When introducing a foreign gene into a target genome in plant tissue, you need to grow the transgenic cell to a complete plant. This is done by plant tissue culture, a biotechnique based on the concept that an organ, tissue or cell of a plant can be manipulated to grow back into a complete plant. After delivering a foreign gene into a target genome, you need to bring the transgenic cell to a complete plant. This step has to be done by plant tissue culture. Plant tissue culture is a biotechnique based on the promise that an organ, tissue or cell of a plant can be in vitro manipulated to grow back in to a complete plant. Therefore, plant tissue culture is the foundation and in most cases the bottle-neck step for plant genetic engineering.

The history of plant tissue culture can be traced back to near the turn of the 20th century when Gottlieb Haberland reported his culture of leaf mesophyll tissue and hair cells, though the cultured cells did not divide (see Steward 1968). Haberland’s student Kotte (1922) reported in vitro growth of isolated root tips. White (1934) repeatedly reported subculture of root tip-derived tissues of tomato. Techniques for plant tissue culture progressed rapidly during the 1930s due to the discovery of the necessity of B vitamins and auxin for the growth of isolated meristem tissues. The works of Skoog and his associates on the nutritional requirements of tobacco tissue culture led to not only the discovery of plant growth hormones, kinetin and cytokinins, but also to the formation of an important plant tissue culture medium, the MS medium (Skoog and Tsui, 1951; Skoog and Miller, 1957; Murashige and Skoog, 1962). Since the 1960s, tissue and cell culture has increasingly been used as a tool by plant scientists and biotechnologists. Yet, much remains to be explored in terms of methodology, procedures and the theories behind.

In this lecture, we will learn the basic theories which guide our practice, and the techniques that are fundamental for plant tissue culture. The two parts can be learned separately.

Development of this lesson was supported in part by Cooperative State Research, Education, & Extension Service, U.S. Dept of Agriculture under Agreement Number 98-EATP-1-0403 administered by Cornell University and the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC). Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.