Planarians can be cut into irregularly shaped fragments capable of regenerating new and complete organisms. Such regenerative capacities involve a robust ability to restore bilateral symmetry. We have identified three genes needed for bilaterally asymmetric fragments to regenerate missing body parts. These genes are candidate components of a signaling pathway that controls the dorsal-ventral patterning of many animal embryos: a BMP1/Tolloid-like gene (smedolloid-1), a SMAD4-like gene (smedsmad4-1), and a BMP2/4/DPP-like gene (smedbmp4-1). BMP signaling was involved in the formation of new tissues at the midline of regeneration, the dorsal-ventral patterning of new tissues, and the maintenance of the dorsal-ventral pattern of existing adult tissue in homeostasis. smedbmp4-1 was normally expressed at the dorsal midline. Asymmetric fragments lacking a midline displayed new smedbmp4-1 expression prior to formation of a regenerative outgrowth (blastema). Asymmetric fragments containing the midline displayed expanded smedbmp4-1 expression towards the wound. We suggest injured animals that lack left-right symmetry re-set their midline through modulation of BMP activity as an early and necessary event in regeneration.
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