Somaclonal variation is manifested as cytological abnormalities, frequent qualitative and quantitative phenotypic mutation, sequence change, and gene activation and silencing. Activation of quiescent transposable elements and retrotransposons indicate that epigenetic changes occur through the culture process. Epigenetic activation of DNA elements further suggests that epigenetic changes may also be involved in cytogenetic instability through modification of heterochromatin, and as a basis of phenotypic variation through the modulation of gene function. The observation that DNA methylation patterns are highly variable among regenerated plants and their progeny provides evidence that DNA modifications are less stable in culture than in seed-grown plants. Future research will determine the relative importance of epigenetic versus sequence or chromosome variation in conditioning somaclonal variation in plants.