Begonia plants were regenerated from leaf explants treated with increasing concentrations of the chemical mutagen nitrosomethylurea (NMU). In these plants, we evaluated three methods to assess the extent of variation: a qualitative, phenotypic assay (the percentage of aberrant plants), a molecular assay (changes in RAPD patterns) and a quantitative, phenotypic assay (variation in a quantitative trait). The qualitative, phenotypic assay required a large number of plants per treatment (approx. 100) and careful, skilled judgement. It was sensitive to physiological variation. The RAPD assay was not sufficiently sensitive: even at the highest NMU concentration there were no changes in RAPD patterns. The quantitative, phenotypic assay gave the best results: it was simple, objective and sensitive, and required few plants per treatment (approx. 30). Plants were also regenerated from different types of intermediate callus, and their variation was assessed. The performance of the three assays was essentially the same as with plants obtained after mutagenesis with NMU. An intermediate nodular- or non-nodular-callus phase resulted in slightly or strongly increased variation, respectively. In contrast to NMU-induced variation, callus-related variation, as determined in the quantitative, phenotypic assay, appeared to be to a large extent transient since it decreased strongly after a second direct-regeneration step. An intermediate callus phase resulted in 2.5% juvenile plants. This aberration, which might be related with changes in the methylation status of DNA, was not observed in NMU-treated plants.
Bouman, H., & de Klerk, G. J. (2001). Measurement of the extent of somaclonal variation in begonia plants regenerated under various conditions. Comparison of three assays. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 102(1), 111-117. https://doi.org/10.1007/s001220051625