Investigations into the mechanisms of somatic embryogenesis (SE) have largely focused on the hormonal regulation of the process and a repertoire of strategies has been developed to regenerate many species via SE. However, the genes that regulate the induction and development of somatic embryos have not been defined. In the recent times, regeneration via overexpression of genes, such as WUSCHEL or LEAFY COTYLEDON, in Arabidopsis has started to provide a basis for understanding the genes involved in SE. This has gone hand in hand with the availability of genome sequence information and the availability of mutants in model plants such as Arabidopsis and Medicago. An improved understanding of zygotic embryogenesis and the maintenance and differentiation of stem cells in the shoot meristem also helps to provide novel insights into the mechanisms of SE. This review examines the current understanding of the genetic regulation of SE in the context of current molecular understanding of plant development.
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Vol. 42 • No. 6