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Biotechnological advances in tea (Camellia sinensis [L.] O. Kuntze): a review

Mukhopadhyay, Mainaak, Mondal, Tapan K., Chand, Pradeep K.
Plant cell reports 2016 v.35 no.2 pp. 255-287
Camellia sinensis, agronomic traits, alleles, biotic stress, breeding, cell culture, expressed sequence tags, genetic background, genetic improvement, genetic markers, genetic transformation, longevity, metabolomics, micropropagation, molecular cloning, perennials, proteomics, quantitative trait loci, recalcitrant species, somatic embryogenesis, stress tolerance, tea, transcriptomics, trees, wild relatives
KEY MESSAGE : This article presents a comprehensive review on the success and limitations of biotechnological approaches aimed at genetic improvement of tea with a purpose to explore possibilities to address challenging areas. Tea is a woody perennial tree with a life span of more than 100 years. Conventional breeding of tea is slow and limited primarily to selection which leads to narrowing down of its genetic base. Harnessing the benefits of wild relatives has been negligible due to low cross-compatibility, genetic drag and undesirable alleles for low yield. Additionally, being a recalcitrant species, in vitro propagation of tea is constrained too. Nevertheless, maneuvering with tissue/cell culture techniques, a considerable success has been achieved in the area of micropropagation, somatic embryogenesis as well as genetic transformation. Besides, use of molecular markers, “expressomics” (transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics), map-based cloning towards construction of physical maps, generation of expressed sequenced tags (ESTs) have facilitated the identification of QTLs and discovery of genes associated with abiotic or biotic stress tolerance and agronomic traits. Furthermore, the complete genome (or at least gene space) sequence of tea is expected to be accessible in the near future which will strengthen combinational approaches for improvement of tea. This review presents a comprehensive account of the success and limitations of the biotechnological tools and techniques hitherto applied to tea and its wild relatives. Expectedly, this will form a basis for making further advances aimed at genetic improvement of tea in particular and of economically important woody perennials in general.