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Planta. 2008 Jul;228(2):319-30. doi: 10.1007/s00425-008-0739-8. Epub 2008 May 20.

Cloning and molecular characterisation of a potato SERK gene transcriptionally induced during initiation of somatic embryogenesis.

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  • 1Genetics Programme, Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, Scotland, UK.


Somatic embryogenesis offers great potential in plant propagation, long-term germplasm conservation, and as a suitable model system for deciphering early events during embryogenesis. The up-regulation and ectopic expression of a SOMATIC EMBRYOGENESIS RECEPTOR-LIKE KINASE (SERK) gene has been shown to mark and enhance embryogenic competence in somatic cells of model plant species. We have cloned and characterised a SERK gene (StSERK1) from potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), an important crop plant. Sequence analysis of StSERK1 revealed high levels of similarity to other plant SERKs, as well as a conserved intron/exon structure which is unique to members of the SERK family. Furthermore, StSERK clustered most closely with SERK gene family members such as MtSERK1, CuSERK1, AtSERK1, and DcSERK, implicated in evoking somatic embryogenesis. Monitoring of SERK expression during progression of potato somatic embryogenesis revealed increased StSERK expression during the induction phase. Subsequently, during the embryo transition phases, StSERK expression was unchanged and did not vary among embryo-forming and inhibitory conditions. However, in isolated somatic embryos StSERK expression was again up-regulated. In other plant parts (leaves, true potato seeds, microtubers and flower buds), StSERK showed different levels of expression. Expression analysis suggests that the isolated StSERK could be a functional SERK orthologue. The possible role of SERK as a marker of pluripotency, rather than embryogenesis alone, is discussed.

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