The textbooks and literature of plant biology indicate that plant cells are totipotent, and that regeneration occurs via dedifferentiation, by which the cell and its descendents recapitulate earlier stages of development. However, recent work on the generation of callus, a presumed undifferentiated or dedifferentiated and disorganized cellular mass, indicates that the cells of callus are neither, and that callus forms predominantly from a pre-existing population of stem cells. Recent work in animal regeneration, for example in salamander limbs, also indicates that previous assumptions about the extent of dedifferentiation and pluripotency in animals are in need of critical reassessment. We review here some of these data, compare plant and animal regeneration, and argue that the importance of dedifferentiation and plasticity in regenerating systems is due for reevaluation.
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