Plant tissue culture can induce a variety of genetic and epigenetic changes in regenerated plantlets, a phenomenon known as somaclonal variation. Such variation has been widely used in the ornamental foliage plant industry as a source for selection of new cultivars. In ornamental aroids alone, at least 63 somaclonal-derived cultivars have been released. In addition to morphological differences, many somaclonal aroid cultivars can be distinguished by amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis. However, a few cultivars have no detectable polymorphisms with their parents or close relatives by AFLP fingerprints. It is postulated that DNA methylation may be involved in the morphological changes of these cultivars. In this study, methylation-sensitive amplification polymorphism (MSAP) technique was used to study DNA methylation in selected somaclonal cultivars of Alocasia, Aglaonema, Anthurium, Dieffenbachia, Philodendron, and Syngonium. Results showed that polymorphisms were detected in the somaclonal cultivars, suggesting that DNA methylation polymorphisms may associate with tissue culture-induced mutation in ornamental aroids. This is the first study of methylation variation in somaclonal variants of ornamental foliage plants. The results clearly demonstrate that the MSAP technique is highly efficient in detecting DNA methylation events in somaclonal-derived cultivars.
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