• Question: Hello, I would like to ask you about plant hybridation process: so my question is, if hybridation by sexual reproduction process is'nt possible, can we try to cross two plants with their somatic cells? Thank you

    Asked by ines et noemie to Freddie, Jena, Kirsten, Kon, Zarah on 16 Nov 2016.
    • Photo: Jennifer Bates

      Jennifer Bates answered on 16 Nov 2016:

      We can indeed! Somatic hybridisation is the genetic modification of two distinct plant species to make a new hybrid plant with characteristics from both original species.

      One of the benefits of this is when you can’t get the plants to reproduce via sexual reproduction either because they are sterile or because they are too different. It might result in the future plants being sterile too though…

      Triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye, was first made in the 19th century with the aim of getting the high yields from wheat and environmental tolerances of rye. However, there are often problems of low fertility or even sterility, so the second generation of Triticale (Triticale crossed with another Triticale) is the one that people buy and grow.

    • Photo: Konstantinos Drousiotis

      Konstantinos Drousiotis answered on 17 Nov 2016:

      The somatic fusion nowadays happens successfully by following the steps below:
      a) Removing the cell wall of each type of cells using cellulase. What is left of the cells is called ‘protoplast’
      b) The protoplasts are then fused together by electric shock or using chemicals. The fusion brings the nuclei together (the new nucleus is called ‘heterokaryon’).
      c)The fused cell reproduces its cell wall using specific hormones.
      d) Then there are three stages of growth (with different planting conditions) ie. calluses to plantlets to the new plant!

      A similar example to what Jen has mentioned is the hybrid between barley and carrot to transfer the ability of barley to resist cold temperatures and high salt concentration to carrots!