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BMC Dev Biol. 2012 Dec 4;12:34. doi: 10.1186/1471-213X-12-34.

Cell proliferation is necessary for the regeneration of oral structures in the anthozoan cnidarian Nematostella vectensis.

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Kewalo Marine Laboratory, Pacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii, 41 Ahui Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.



The contribution of cell proliferation to regeneration varies greatly between different metazoan models. Planarians rely on pluripotent neoblasts and amphibian limb regeneration depends upon formation of a proliferative blastema, while regeneration in Hydra can occur in the absence of cell proliferation. Recently, the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis has shown potential as a model for studies of regeneration because of the ability to conduct comparative studies of patterning during embryonic development, asexual reproduction, and regeneration. The present study investigates the pattern of cell proliferation during the regeneration of oral structures and the role of cell proliferation in this process.


In intact polyps, cell proliferation is observed in both ectodermal and endodermal tissues throughout the entire oral-aboral axis, including in the tentacles and physa. Following bisection, there is initially little change in proliferation at the wound site of the aboral fragment, however, beginning 18 to 24 hours after amputation there is a dramatic increase in cell proliferation at the wound site in the aboral fragment. This elevated level of proliferation is maintained throughout the course or regeneration of oral structures, including the tentacles, the mouth, and the pharynx. Treatments with the cell proliferation inhibitors hydroxyurea and nocodazole demonstrate that cell proliferation is indispensable for the regeneration of oral structures. Although inhibition of regeneration by nocodazole was generally irreversible, secondary amputation reinitiates cell proliferation and regeneration.


The study has found that high levels of cell proliferation characterize the regeneration of oral structures in Nematostella, and that this cell proliferation is necessary for the proper progression of regeneration. Thus, while cell proliferation contributes to regeneration of oral structures in both Nematostella and Hydra, Nematostella lacks the ability to undergo the compensatory morphallactic mode of regeneration that characterizes Hydra. Our results are consistent with amputation activating a quiescent population of mitotically competent stem cells in spatial proximity to the wound site, which form the regenerated structures.

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