In plants, complete embryos can develop not only from the zygote, but also from somatic cells in tissue culture. How somatic cells undergo the change in fate to become embryogenic is largely unknown. Proteins, secreted into the culture medium such as endochitinases and arabinogalactan proteins (AGPs) are required for somatic embryogenesis. Here we show that carrot (Daucus carota) AGPs can contain glucosamine and N-acetyl-D-glucosaminyl and are sensitive to endochitinase cleavage. To determine the relevance of this observation for embryogenesis, an assay was developed based on the enzymatic removal of the cell wall from cultured cells. The resulting protoplasts had a reduced capacity for somatic embryogenesis, which could be partially restored by adding endochitinases to the protoplasts. AGPs from culture medium or from immature seeds could fully restore or even increase embryogenesis. AGPs pretreated with chitinases were more active than untreated molecules and required an intact carbohydrate constituent for activity. AGPs were only capable of promoting embryogenesis from protoplasts in a short period preceding cell wall reformation. Apart from the increase in embryogenesis, AGPs can reinitiate cell division in a subpopulation of otherwise non-dividing protoplasts. These results show that chitinase-modified AGPs are extracellular matrix molecules able to control or maintain plant cell fate.
van Hengel, A. J., Tadesse, Z., Immerzeel, P., Schols, H., van Kammen, A., & de Vries, S. C. (2001). N-acetylglucosamine and glucosamine-containing arabinogalactan proteins control somatic embryogenesis. Plant Physiology, 125, 1880-1890. https://doi.org/10.1104/pp.125.4.1880