Genetic improvement of coffee, an important commercial crop, through classical breeding is slow and cumbersome. Biotechnology offers alternative strategies for generating new and improved coffee varieties, including those resistances to environmental extremes, pests, and diseases, low in caffeine, and with uniform fruit maturation. Large improvements in somatic embryogenesis, development of haploids, and scale-up of micropropagation have been accomplished in the last 5 yr. The recent identification of expressed sequence tags (EST) that are differentially expressed during the infestation of coffee plants by coffee leaf miners and the isolation and cloning of the promoter for the N-methyltransferase gene associated with caffeine production open up the possibility of producing varieties of coffee with new traits. This review provides a summary of in vitro biological advances and directions as to how they could be applied to improve the production and quality of coffee.
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