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Cell Stem Cell. 2012 Mar 2;10(3):299-311. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2012.01.016.

Genetic regulators of a pluripotent adult stem cell system in planarians identified by RNAi and clonal analysis.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, MIT Biology, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, 9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


Pluripotency is a central, well-studied feature of embryonic development, but the role of pluripotent cell regulation in somatic tissue regeneration remains poorly understood. In planarians, regeneration of entire animals from tissue fragments is promoted by the activity of adult pluripotent stem cells (cNeoblasts). We utilized transcriptional profiling to identify planarian genes expressed in adult proliferating, regenerative cells (neoblasts). We also developed quantitative clonal analysis methods for expansion and differentiation of cNeoblast descendants that, together with RNAi, revealed gene roles in stem cell biology. Genes encoding two zinc finger proteins, Vasa, a LIM domain protein, Sox and Jun-like transcription factors, two candidate RNA-binding proteins, a Setd8-like protein, and PRC2 (Polycomb) were required for proliferative expansion and/or differentiation of cNeoblast-derived clones. These findings suggest that planarian stem cells utilize molecular mechanisms found in germ cells and other pluripotent cell types and identify genetic regulators of the planarian stem cell system.

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