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Curr Biol. 2006 May 23;16(10):1012-7.

Early segregation of germ and somatic lineages during gonadal regeneration in the annelid Enchytraeus japonensis.

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Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, 8916-5 Takayama, Ikoma, NARA 630-0192, Japan.


Although regeneration studies are useful for understanding how organs renew, little information is available about regeneration of reproductive organs and germ cells. We here describe the behavior of germ-cell precursors during regeneration of the oligochaete annelid worm Enchytraeus japonensis, which has the remarkable feature of undergoing asexual (by fission) and sexual reproduction . We first found that the gonad can regenerate from any body fragment yielded by fission during asexual reproduction. We then examined behavior of germ-cell lineage during this regenerative process, by using a homolog of the Piwi gene (Ej-piwi) as a marker. We found that in asexually growing animals, specialized cells expressing Ej-piwi are distributed widely in the body as single cells. These cells seem to serve as a reservoir of germ-cell precursors because during asexual propagation these cells migrate into the regenerating tissue, where they ultimately settle in the prospective gonads, and give rise to germ cells upon sexualization. These cells are distinct from the neoblasts, thought to be stem cells in other animals. This is the first report to directly show that the germ and somatic lineages are segregated in asexually growing animals and behave differently during regeneration.

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