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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Aug 15;88(16):7338-42.

Planarian homeobox genes: cloning, sequence analysis, and expression.

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Departament de Genètica, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.


Freshwater planarians (Platyhelminthes, Turbellaria, and Tricladida) are acoelomate, triploblastic, unsegmented, and bilaterally symmetrical organisms that are mainly known for their ample power to regenerate a complete organism from a small piece of their body. To identify potential pattern-control genes in planarian regeneration, we have isolated two homeobox-containing genes, Dth-1 and Dth-2 [Dugesia (Girardia) tigrina homeobox], by using degenerate oligonucleotides corresponding to the most conserved amino acid sequence from helix-3 of the homeodomain. Dth-1 and Dth-2 homeodomains are closely related (68% at the nucleotide level and 78% at the protein level) and show the conserved residues characteristic of the homeodomains identified to data. Similarity with most homeobox sequences is low (30-50%), except with Drosophila NK homeodomains (80-82% with NK-2) and the rodent TTF-1 homeodomain (77-87%). Some unusual amino acid residues specific to NK-2, TTF-1, Dth-1, and Dth-2 can be observed in the recognition helix (helix-3) and may define a family of homeodomains. The deduced amino acid sequences from the cDNAs contain, in addition to the homeodomain, other domains also present in various homeobox-containing genes. The expression of both genes, detected by Northern blot analysis, appear slightly higher in cephalic regions than in the rest of the intact organism, while a slight increase is detected in the central period (5 days) or regeneration.

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