Somatic embryogenesis (SE) is a process of differentiation of cells into a plant bypassing the fusion of gametes. As such, it represents a very powerful tool in biotechnology for propagation of species with a long reproductive cycle or low seed set and production of genetically modified plants with improved traits. SE is also a versatile model to study cellular and molecular mechanisms of plant embryo patterning. The morphology and molecular regulation of SE resemble those of zygotic embryogenesis and begin with establishment of apical-basal asymmetry. The apical domain, the embryo proper, proliferates and eventually gives rise to the plantlet, while the basal part, the embryo suspensor, is terminally differentiated and gradually removed via vacuolar programmed cell death (PCD). This PCD is essential for normal development of the apical domain. Emerging evidence demonstrates that signalling events in the apical and basal domains share homologous components. Here we provide an overview of the main pathways controlling the life and death events during SE.
Keywords: Cell death; cell fate; differentiation; embryo suspensor; proliferation; somatic embryogenesis..