The planarian Schmidtea mediterranea as a model for studying motile cilia and multiciliated cells.Methods Cell Biol 2015; 127:243-62MC
In the past few years, the freshwater planarian Schmidtea mediterranea has emerged as a powerful model system to study the assembly and function of cilia. S. mediterranea is a free-living flatworm that uses the beating of cilia on its ventral epidermis for locomotion. The ventral epidermis is composed of a single layer of multiciliated cells highly similar to the multiciliated cells that line the airway, the brain ventricles, and the oviducts in humans. The genome of S. mediterranea has been sequenced and efficient methods for targeting gene expression by RNA interference (RNAi) are available. Locomotion defects induced by perturbing the expression of ciliary genes can be often detected by simple visual screening, and more subtle defects can be detected by measuring locomotion speed. Cilia are present in large numbers and are directly accessible, which facilitates analyses by immunofluorescence and electron microscopy. Here we describe a set of methods for maintaining planarians in the lab. These include gene knockout by RNAi, cilia visualization by immunofluorescence, transmission electron microscopy, and live imaging.