A procedure for protoplast isolation and plant regeneration of St. John's wort has been developed to utilize cell-to-cell variability for optimum production of valuable medicinal compounds. Calluses, induced from hypocotyl segments of St. John's wort seedlings, were used for protoplast isolation, induction of sustained cell division, and ultimately, plant regeneration. Callus-isolated protoplasts at a density of 2.0×105 per ml were embedded in 0.6% Na-alginate blocks and cultured in a medium containing modified Murashige and Skoog (MS) salts, 2.5 μM 6-benzylaminopurine (BA), 5.0 μM α-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA), and 0.5 mol l−1 glucose. Protoplast-derived colonies formed compact calluses when transferred onto 0.35% gellan gum-solidified MS medium supplemented with 2.5 μM BA and 2.5 μM NAA. Shoot organogenesis from the protoplast-derived callus was induced on MS medium supplemented with 5 μM thidiazuron. Complete plantlets were obtained from the regenerated shoots on MS basal medium. A greater than 3-fold variation of antioxidant activity was observed among the protoplast-derived plantlets and chemically distinct germplasm lines were selected on the basis of phytochemical profiles. The protoplast to plant regeneration protocol developed in this study provides the foundation for development of novel genotypes with potential expansion of the genetic diversity through somatic hybridization, and organelle transplantation.
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