Habituated calli have long been classified as neoplasms together with tumors from different origins. The general opinion is that habituation is a reversible process with an epigenetic basis. This is probably true in most cases examined. However, we show here that there might be several degrees of habituation, which can be considered as steps of a neoplastic progression leading to cancerisation in the absence of an introduced oncogenic pathogen. Cell rejuvenation, loss of the capacity to organize meristematic centers, and loss of totipotency are proposed to define plant cancer through this neoplastic progression of a callus.
Habituated tissues share many morphological and biochemical similarities with so-called vitreous shoots from micropropagation. Vitrification and hyperhydric malformations of shoots raised in vitro may be considered as steps of another neoplastic progression, which leads to cancerisation also in the absence of introduced oncogenic pathogens. In this case death of the whole organism occurs either through direct apex necrosis or indirectly, from the loss of the capacity for the primary meristems to function normally, which gives rise to completely anarchic structures. As in the animal kingdom, carcinogenesis in plants is the final result of a multistep process involving the irreversible conversion of a stem cell to a terminal-differentiation-resistant cell.