From a holistic perspective, the discovery of cellular plasticity, a very interesting property of totipotency, underlies many topical issues in biology with important medical applications, while transgenesis is a core research tool in biology.
Partially known, some basic mechanisms involved in the regenerative property of cells and in their receptivity to transgenesis are common to plant and animal cells and highlight the principle of the unity of life. Transgenesis provides an important investigative instrument in plant physiology and is regarded as a valuable tool for crop improvement. The economic, social, cultural and scientific importance of cereals has led to a rich stream of research into their genetics, biology and evolution. Sustained efforts to achieve the results obtained in the fields of genetic engineering and applied biotechnology reflect this deep interest. Difficulties encountered in creating genetically modified cereals, especially wheat, highlighted the central notions of tissue culture regeneration and transformation competencies. From the perspective of combining or encountering these competencies in the same cell lineage, this reputedly recalcitrant species provides a stimulating biological system in which to explore the physiological and genetic complexity of both competencies. The former involves two phases, dedifferentiation and redifferentiation. Cells undergo development switches regulated by extrinsic and intrinsic factors. The re-entry into the cell division cycle progressively culminates in the development of organized structures. This is achieved by global chromatin reorganization associated with the reprogramming of the gene expression pattern. The latter is linked with surveillance mechanisms and DNA repair, aimed at maintaining genome integrity before cells move into mitosis, and with those mechanisms aimed at genome expression control and regulation. In order to clarify the biological basis of these two physiological properties and their interconnectedness, we look at both competencies at the core of defense/adaptive mechanisms and survival, between undifferentiated cell proliferation and organization, constituting a transition phase between two different dynamic regimes, a typical feature of critical dynamic systems. Opting for a candidate-gene strategy, several gene families could be proposed as relevant targets for investigating this hypothesis at the molecular level.