A functional genomics screen identifies an Importin-α homolog as a regulator of stem cell function and tissue patterning during planarian regeneration.BMC Genomics 2015; 16:769BG
Planarians are renowned for their regenerative capacity and are an attractive model for the study of adult stem cells and tissue regeneration. In an effort to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying planarian regeneration, we performed a functional genomics screen aimed at identifying genes involved in this process in Schmidtea mediterranea.
We used microarrays to detect changes in gene expression in regenerating and non-regenerating tissues in planarians regenerating one side of the head and followed this with high-throughput screening by in situ hybridization and RNAi to characterize the expression patterns and function of the differentially expressed genes.
Along with five previously characterized genes (Smed-cycD, Smed-morf41/mrg-1, Smed-pdss2/dlp1, Smed-slbp, and Smed-tph), we identified 20 additional genes necessary for stem cell maintenance (Smed-sart3, Smed-smarcc-1, Smed-espl1, Smed-rrm2b-1, Smed-rrm2b-2, Smed-dkc1, Smed-emg1, Smed-lig1, Smed-prim2, Smed-mcm7, and a novel sequence) or general regenerative capability (Smed-rbap46/48-2, Smed-mcm2, Smed-ptbp1, and Smed-fen-1) or that caused tissue-specific defects upon knockdown (Smed-ddc, Smed-gas8, Smed-pgbd4, and Smed-b9d2). We also found that a homolog of the nuclear transport factor Importin-α plays a role in stem cell function and tissue patterning, suggesting that controlled nuclear import of proteins is important for regeneration.
Through this work, we described the roles of several previously uncharacterized genes in planarian regeneration and implicated nuclear import in this process. We have additionally created an online database to house our in situ and RNAi data to make it accessible to the planarian research community.