Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC)

, Volume 136, Issue 2, pp 279–287 | Cite as

Methylglyoxal-induced enhancement of somatic embryogenesis and associated metabolic changes in sugarcane (Saccharum spp. hybrids)

  • Tendekai MahlanzaEmail author
  • R. Stuart Rutherford
  • Sandy J. Snyman
  • M. Paula Watt
Original Article


The production of regenerable embryogenic callus is essential to sugarcane genetic improvement. However, some sugarcane cultivars display poor calli yields using established in vitro protocols. In this study, we tested the impact of methylglyoxal (MG) on embryogenic callus and plantlet development in cultivars NCo376 and N41. Calli were exposed to 0–10 mM MG at embryo maturation and germination stages. For both cultivars, the 2 and 4 mM MG treatments increased callus dry mass by up to 48%, but 70–80% decreases were observed when calli were exposed to 7 and 10 mM. The 2 and 4 mM MG treatments also produced more compact white embryogenic callus than the control. Incorporation of MG at the same levels during embryo germination promoted faster shoot morphogenesis in both cultivars and increase plantlet yield in NCo376 by 130% when treated with 4 mM MG. In both cultivars, MG levels higher than 7 mM had a negative or no effect plantlet production. Metabolic profiling revealed higher levels of sugars in MG-treated than in control calli, which may have contributed to development of more white compact calli. Separate clustering of NCo376 and N41 MG-treated calli in principal component and hierarchical clustering analyses of the metabolic profiles, suggested variations in MG metabolism among the genotypes that may account for variations in the MG-induced effect on somatic embryogenesis between the two cultivars. Although the effect may be genotype-dependant, low MG concentrations can induce improved embryogenic callus and plantlet development in sugarcane.


Metabolic profiling Methylglyoxal Somatic embryogenesis Sugarcane 



We acknowledge and thank SASRI, National Research Foundation of South Africa (Grants 85573 and 85414, 96178) and the University of KwaZulu Natal for the funding and Prof Thavi Govender and Dr Tricia Naicker of the Catalysis and Peptide Research Unit of University of KwaZulu-Natal for the assistance with the GC-MS analyses.

Author contributions

TM, SJS, RSR and MPW designed the experiments. TM conducted the experimental work, data analyses and writing the manuscript. SJS, RSR and MPW contributed to data interpretation, writing and reviewing the article. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tendekai Mahlanza
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • R. Stuart Rutherford
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sandy J. Snyman
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. Paula Watt
    • 2
  1. 1.South African Sugarcane Research InstituteMount EdgecombeSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa

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