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Dev Biol. 2005 Nov 15;287(2):314-35. Epub 2005 Oct 21.

Characterization of innexin gene expression and functional roles of gap-junctional communication in planarian regeneration.

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Department of Cytokine Biology, The Forsyth Institute, 140 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Planaria possess remarkable powers of regeneration. After bisection, one blastema regenerates a head, while the other forms a tail. The ability of previously-adjacent cells to adopt radically different fates could be due to long-range signaling allowing determination of position relative to, and the identity of, remaining tissue. However, this process is not understood at the molecular level. Following the hypothesis that gap-junctional communication (GJC) may underlie this signaling, we cloned and characterized the expression of the Innexin gene family during planarian regeneration. Planarian innexins fall into 3 groups according to both sequence and expression. The concordance between expression-based and phylogenetic grouping suggests diversification of 3 ancestral innexin genes into the large family of planarian innexins. Innexin expression was detected throughout the animal, as well as specifically in regeneration blastemas, consistent with a role in long-range signaling relevant to specification of blastema positional identity. Exposure to a GJC-blocking reagent which does not distinguish among gap junctions composed of different Innexin proteins (is not subject to compensation or redundancy) often resulted in bipolar (2-headed) animals. Taken together, the expression data and the respecification of the posterior blastema to an anteriorized fate by GJC loss-of-function suggest that innexin-based GJC mediates instructive signaling during regeneration.

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