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Trends Genet. 2011 Jul;27(7):277-85. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2011.04.004. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Constitutive gene expression and the specification of tissue identity in adult planarian biology.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


Planarians are flatworms that constitutively maintain adult tissues through cell turnover and can regenerate entire organisms from tiny body fragments. In addition to requiring new cells (from neoblasts), these feats require mechanisms that specify tissue identity in the adult. Crucial roles for Wnt and BMP signaling in the regeneration and maintenance of the body axes have been uncovered, among other regulatory factors. Available data indicate that genes involved in positional identity regulation at key embryonic stages in other animals display persisting regionalized expression in adult planarians. These expression patterns suggest that a constitutively active gene expression map exists for the maintenance of the planarian body. Planarians thus present a fertile ground for the identification of factors regulating the regionalization of the metazoan body plan and for the study of the attributes of these factors that can lead to the maintenance and regeneration of adult tissues.

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