In the course of DNA profiling of grapevine cultivars using microsatellite loci we have occasionally observed more than two alleles at a locus in some individuals and have identified periclinal chimerism as the source of such anomalies. This phenomenon in long-lived clonally propagated crops, such as grapevine, which contains historically ancient cultivars, may have a role in clonal differences and affect cultivar identification and pedigree analysis. Here we show that when the two cell layers of a periclinal chimera, Pinot Meunier, are separated by passage through somatic embryogenesis the regenerated plants not only have distinct DNA profiles which are different from those of the parent plant but also have novel phenotypes. Recovery of these phenotypes indicates that additional genetic differences can exist between the two cell layers and that the Pinot Meunier phenotype is due to the interaction of genetically distinct cell layers. It appears that grapevine chimerism can not only modify phenotype but can also impact on grapevine improvement as both genetic transformation and conventional breeding strategies separate mutations in the L1 and L2 cell layers.
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