Research Article

Self-organization and progenitor targeting generate stable patterns in planarian regeneration

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Science  27 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6387, pp. 404-409
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap8179

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A recipe for regeneration

Unlike humans, planarian flatworms can regenerate certain tissues. During regeneration, existing tissues remodel, and undifferentiated and progenitor cells convert into specialized cell types at specified locations. Atabay et al. examined planarian eye regeneration (see the Perspective by Tanaka). Surgical and transplantation experiments revealed three properties governing regenerative progenitor behavior: cell self-organization, an extrinsic migratory target for progenitors, and a broad progenitor-specification zone. Predictions from this model enabled generation of animals with multiple stable eyes.

Science, this issue p. 404; see also p. 374


During animal regeneration, cells must organize into discrete and functional systems. We show that self-organization, along with patterning cues, govern progenitor behavior in planarian regeneration. Surgical paradigms allowed the manipulation of planarian eye regeneration in predictable locations and numbers, generating alternative stable neuroanatomical states for wild-type animals with multiple functional ectopic eyes. We used animals with multiple ectopic eyes and eye transplantation to demonstrate that broad progenitor specification, combined with self-organization, allows anatomy maintenance during regeneration. We propose a model for regenerative progenitors involving (i) migratory targeting cues, (ii) self-organization into existing or regenerating eyes, and (iii) a broad zone, associated with coarse progenitor specification, in which eyes can be targeted by progenitors. These three properties help explain how tissues can be organized during regeneration.

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