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Genes Dev. 2012 May 1;26(9):988-1002. doi: 10.1101/gad.187377.112.

A molecular wound response program associated with regeneration initiation in planarians.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Whitehead Institute, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, USA.


Planarians are capable of regenerating any missing body part and present an attractive system for molecular investigation of regeneration initiation. The gene activation program that occurs at planarian wounds to coordinate regenerative responses remains unknown. We identified a large set of wound-induced genes during regeneration initiation in planarians. Two waves of wound-induced gene expression occurred in differentiated tissues. The first wave includes conserved immediate early genes. Many second-wave genes encode conserved patterning factors required for proper regeneration. Genes of both classes were generally induced by wounding, indicating that a common initial gene expression program is triggered regardless of missing tissue identity. Planarian regeneration uses a population of regenerative cells (neoblasts), including pluripotent stem cells. A class of wound-induced genes was activated directly within neoblasts, including the Runx transcription factor-encoding runt-1 gene. runt-1 was required for specifying different cell types during regeneration, promoting heterogeneity in neoblasts near wounds. Wound-induced gene expression in neoblasts, including that of runt-1, required SRF (serum response factor) and sos-1. Taken together, these data connect wound sensation to the activation of specific cell type regeneration programs in neoblasts. Most planarian wound-induced genes are conserved across metazoans, and identified genes and mechanisms should be important broadly for understanding wound signaling and regeneration initiation.

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