Glucocorticoid receptor-regulated TcLEC2 expression triggers somatic embryogenesis in Theobroma cacao leaf tissue

Andrew S. Fister, Lena Landherr, Melanie Perryman, Yufan Zhang, Mark J. Guiltinan, Siela N. Maximova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Theobroma cacao, the source of cocoa, is a crop of particular importance in many developing countries. Availability of elite planting material is a limiting factor for increasing productivity of Theobroma cacao; therefore, the development of new strategies for clonal propagation is essential to improve farmers’ incomes and to meet increasing global demand for cocoa. To develop a more efficient embryogenesis system for cacao, tissue was transformed with a transgene encoding a fusion of Leafy Cotyledon 2 (TcLEC2) to a glucocorticoid receptor domain (GR) to control nuclear localization of the protein. Upon application of the glucocorticoid dexamethasone (dex), downstream targets of LEC2 involved in seed-development were up-regulated and somatic embryos (SEs) were successfully regenerated from TcLEC2-GR transgenic flower and leaf tissue in large numbers. Immature SEs regenerated from TcLEC2-GR leaves were smaller in size than immature SEs from floral tissue, suggesting a different ontogenetic origin. Additionally, exposure of TcLEC2-GR floral explants to dex increased the number of SEs compared to floral explants from control, non-transgenic trees or from TcLEC2-GR floral explants not treated with dex. Testing different durations of exposure to dex indicated that a three-day treatment produced optimal embryo regeneration. Leaf derived SEs were successfully grown to maturity, converted into plants, and established in the greenhouse, demonstrating that these embryos are fully developmentally competent. In summary, we demonstrate that regulating TcLEC2 activity offers a powerful new strategy for optimizing somatic embryogenesis pipelines for cacao.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0207666
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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