Biology · Biotechnology

What is meant by Cellular Totipotency?

Cellular Totipotency is the innate ability of a single cell to produce all cell types and to organize them into an entire organism when cultured in a suitable culture medium at an appropriate temperature and aeration conditions. Plant spores and Zygote are examples of single cells that show cellular totipotency.

Totipotency was introduced by a German plant physiologist, Professor Göttlieb Haberlandt in 1902. However, the term “Cellular Totipotency” was probably coined by T.H. Morgan in 1901. Experimental evidence for cellular totipotency was given by many workers (Muir et al., 1958; Steward et al., 1964, etc.), who raised the complete plants from single isolated cells.

Also Read: What are Explants?

Cellular Totipotency in Plants:

Cellular totipotency is an important characteristic of plant cells. Every plant cell containing a viable nucleus and a proper membrane system is capable of giving rise to an entirely new plant. This capacity is often retained even after a plant cell has undergone final differentiation in the plant body.

When a piece of differentiated tissue from a plant is cultured on a nutrient medium, the mature and non-dividing cells undergo dedifferentiation to transform into meristematic cells and form a callus. These dividing cells of the callus then redifferentiate to develop into an entire plant, if provided with suitable nutritional and hormonal requirements.

In the 1950s, Steward and his co-workers succeeded in growing carrot plants from isolated phloem cells.

Also Read: How do cells in Embryo get their Roles to Play?

Cellular Totipotency in Animals:

Totipotent cells (like stem cells) occur throughout the Animal Kingdom, but their ability to change usually occurs only in one direction: from a stem cell to another derived cell. In Sponges, these changes occur in both directions. The Archeocytes of sponges can develop into any other cell type and then back again as needed.

In Humans, the zygote can give rise to a complete individual. The zygote further divides and gives rise to blastomere which also contains totipotent cells where an individual cell can give rise to an individual. Thus, in the case of humans, only the zygote and cells produced by its descendants are totipotent.

Do you know? Identical twins develop when totipotent cells separate and develop into genetically identical fetuses.

Applications of Cellular totipotency:

The concept of totipotency has recently evolved into a powerful tool utilized throughout the plant sciences. The plant cell and tissue culture(based on totipotency) provide enormous applications in basic and applied research. Plant tissue culture was used for basic research to study cell division, plant growth, and biochemistry.

Over the years the technology has grown and is being widely used for diverse applications, including plant propagation, chromosome manipulations like doubled haploid production from microspore culture, mutant selection, and rapid multiplication of individuals of a wide range of plant species.

Also Read: What is the physical basis of life? 

So, now you know what is meant by cellular totipotency. Also, in the above article, we talked about how totipotency works in animal and plant cells and its applications. So, that is all for now and meet you in my next article. Keep Reading, Keep Exploring, Keep Sharing your Knowledge and above all BE CURIOUS. 😉


  • Razdan, M., 2008. Plant Tissue Culture. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

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