The study of planarian regeneration may help us to understand how we can rebuild organs and tissues after injury, disease or ageing. The robust regenerative abilities of planarians are based upon a population of totipotent stem cells (neoblasts), and among the organs regenerated by these animals is a well-organized central nervous system. In recent years, methodologies such as whole-mount in situ hybridizations and double-stranded RNA have been extended to planarians with the aim of unravelling the molecular basis of their regenerative capacities. Here we report the identification and characterization of nou-darake (ndk), a gene encoding a fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR)-like molecule specifically expressed in the head region of the planarian Dugesia japonica. Loss of function of ndk by RNA interference results in the induction of ectopic brain tissues throughout the body. This ectopic brain formation was suppressed by inhibition of two planarian FGFR homologues (FGFR1 and FGFR2). Additionally, ndk inhibits FGF signalling in Xenopus embryos. The data suggest that ndk may modulate FGF signalling in stem cells to restrict brain tissues to the head region of planarians.
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