In vitro mutagenesis offers a feasible approach for developing new orchid cultivars through genetic manipulation. In the present study, protocorm-like bodies (PLBs) were exposed to gamma rays (10, 20, 40, 60, 80 Gy) to study in vitro growth responses and induction of mutants in Dendrobium ‘Emma White’. Both proliferation and regeneration of PLBs decreased progressively with increasing doses, except for a significantly enhanced growth response at 10 Gy. The optimal dose of gamma radiation for mutagenesis was found in the range 10 to 25 Gy based on the growth reduction curve. Analysis using a high-throughput cell analyzer revealed a significant reduction in nuclear DNA content at > 40 Gy doses. At 10 Gy treatment, the growth attributes, such as root length, plant height and leaf number, were significantly increased by 36%, 26% and 20%, respectively, compared to the control. This increase was significant over other tested doses as well. Testing of random amplified polymorphic DNA markers revealed the presence of detectable polymorphism among gamma mutant plantlets with a polymorphism information content value at 0.41. The gamma-ray-induced earliness in flower development was observed within 294 days post ex vitro growth of 10 Gy mutant compared to the control plants flowered after 959 days. Our results highlight the significance of gamma radiation in inducing enhanced growth, morphological variations and early floral initiation in Dendrobium, providing a basic framework for mutation breeding and improvement of orchids.
Keywords: genetic markers; mutation; orchids; polymorphism; random amplified polymorphic DNA.