Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: December 1, 2003
Publication Date: July 1, 2004
Citation: Fletcher, J.C. 2004. Stem cell maintenance in higher plants. In: Lanza, R., Blau, H., Gearhart, J.P., Editors. Handbook of Adult and Fetal Stem Cells. Vol 2. Book Chapter. pp. 631-641. Technical Abstract: Higher plants grow and develop throughout their entire life cycle by a continuous process of reiterative organ formation and differentiation. This growth pattern requires the production of an essentially limitless supply of new cells that can be incorporated into organ primordia. The source of these cells are small populations of stem cells that can be sustained by plants for years or even centuries and, therefore, display remarkable stability. Like animal stem cells, plant stem cells have the ability to renew themselves through cell division and the capacity to form virtually any organ or tissue type. During the normal course of plant development, the stem cells generate daughter cells that differentiate into many types of organs. These organs include leaves and stems and the sepals, petals, stamens, and carpels that comprise the flowers. Therefore, like animal stem cells, plant stem cells are both histogenic and pluripotent. Animal stem cells are also characterized by their ability to be indefinitely propagated in culture without losing their undifferentiated state. However, because individual plant cells are encased within rigid cell walls and bonded to their neighbors, the transplantation of single stem cells to tissue culture has not been performed successfully. Nonetheless, even fully differentiated plant cells can be induced to form totipotent callus tissue from which entire plants may be regenerated; indicating that plants have an intrinsic developmental plasticity that is not shared by animals.