Somatic Hybrids

[I wasn’t sure about the forum category for this one, but since it’s applicable, I thought it was as good a choice as any.]

Somatic hybrids! Strip the cell wall with an enzyme, fuse the cells with an electric current, and culture a sort-of hybrid plant, with both sets of chromosomes in each cell. (It’s closer to hybrids than to chimeras).

I’ve read here on the forum and elsewhere that somatic hybrids aren’t always stable, and I’ve read somewhere that they’re particularly unstable at the diploid level… But I haven’t seen any source elaborating on the concept. What’s the mechanism? Why are they supposedly unstable? What’s the end result? Does it count as a failure?

I was very interested in somatic hybrids, and they seemed rather promising to breed some interesting new plants, but I don’t quite understand the matter of instability. I would’ve thought it’d be similar to natural allopolyploids.

Secondly… Is it possible to commission a laboratory to make a particular SH? I’ve had some ideas bouncing around my head for a long time, but I don’t have the kind of resources to make such experiments myself. Given the potential issues with reproductive sterility in wider crosses, I think it’d be particularly useful for developing vegetatively propagated plants.

At the top of my list, I’d like to see a SH of Ulluco and Madeira Vine. Ulluco is an established edible, with beet-y or starchy tubers (depending on the variety) and apparently top tier greens; it’s also rather susceptible to hot and cold climates, and a somewhat delicate plant. Most people don’t seem to recognize Madeira Vine as an edible, but I grow it and eat it, and it’s quite nice; tender greens, starchy roots, even the bulbils are edible, and it’s one of the toughest, most neglect-resistant plants you can grow. A tough, vigorous, climbing, vining, bulbil-bearing Ulluco is quite a compelling image, in my opinion.

Here in PR, we eat a lot of Cocoyams, both Yautía (Xanthosoma spp.) and Malanga (Taro, Colocasia esculenta). A SH between these two might produce a worthwhile new crop. Interestingly, while all the corms are edible, the two species have opposite harvesting patterns: with Taro, we harvest the mother corm for eating and plant the little cormels; with Yautía, we eat the cormels and cut up the mother corm for planting. Elephant-foot Yam (Amorphophallus paeoniifolius) might make for an interesting SH with either of the others, but it’s unknown in my neck of the woods, and its growth pattern is a bit different.

Any of the Gingers (Common, Turmeric, Galangal, etc) together might make interesting new flavor combinations. Garlic and Onion seem an intuitive combination (they’ve been traditionally hybridized with the help of embryo rescue, but as far as I’m aware, it’s never been released to the public). Arracaca, Celeriac, Skirret and Yampah are all related, and Yacón and Dahlia are related to each other as well.

On the fruiting side of things, the rose family is full of plants that might bear interesting fruits if hybridized somatically (if reproductive sterility were not a barrier).

Where would one go to try to get these things made?

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The only way I can think of to end up with a diploid after fusing two cells like this is if you were fusing two haploid cells together.

My mistake, I didn’t phrase it right. What I meant to say… I’ve read that diploid to diploid somatic fusions (with tetraploid results) are apparently particularly unstable compared to higher ploidy fusions.

Why this is so (allegedly) was not satisfactorily elaborated upon. It still doesn’t make sense to me why somatic hybrids would be any less stable than natural allopolyploids.

I would simply doubt the claim that they’re inherently unstable as someone’s opinion rather than fact unless there was solid evidence to back it up. Frankly, even if there was good evidence it would be unlikely to apply equally to all species.