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Whole body regeneration from a blood vessel

For a lucky subset of vertebrates, losing an appendage is no big deal. As many an inquisitive child knows, salamanders can regenerate lost limbs or tails; and as lab investigators know, zebrafish can regrow lost fins. Of course, humans and other "higher" vertebrates must make do with repairing rather than regenerating damaged tissues. Though whole body generation (WBR) does occur, its typically restricted to a subset of morphologically less complex invertebrates, such as sponges, flatworms, and jellyfish. In a new study, Yuval Rinkevich et al. discovered an unusual mode of WBR in our closest invertebrate relative, the sea squirt Botrylloides leachi.

Sea squirts (also called "tunicates" after their tough outer tunic) are widely distributed in shallow coastal waters as colonies of genetically identical individuals called "zooids." To investigate WBR in B. leachi, Rinkevich et al. collected colonies from the Mediterranean coast of Israel and analyzed the morphological, cellular, and molecular characteristics of the process. The researchers removed fragments of blood vessels with ampullae from the colonies, and placed the fragments on slides for regeneration. Of 95 fragments, 80 underwent WBR. Aggregating cells formed around a hollow sphere, then reorganized into a thin and thick layer on opposite sides, very similar to early stages of embryonic development. As cells proliferated, buds grew and the thick cell layer folded inward, forming double-walled folds and chambers. Organ development continued and an adult zooid, capable of sexual reproduction, appeared within two weeks.

For molecular insights into regeneration, the researchers focused on retinoic acid (RA) signaling by examining the temporal expression of its receptor (RAR). In addition to its role in chordate body patterning, RA (a vitamin A metabolite) induces the regeneration of several tissues and organs. Only regenerating vessels and ampullae expressed RAR, and this expression continue
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Contact: Natalie Bouaravong
press@plos.org
415-568-3445
Public Library of Science
5-Mar-2007


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