Cellular and molecular mechanisms of arm regeneration in crinoid echinoderms: the potential of arm explants
Crinoid echinoderms can provide a valuable experimental model for studying all aspects of regenerative processes from molecular to macroscopic level. Recently we carried out a detailed study into the overall process of arm regeneration in the crinoid Antedon mediterranea and provided an interpretation of its basic mechanisms. However, the problem of the subsequent fate of the amputated arm segment (explant) once isolated from the animal body and of its possible regenerative potential have never been investigated before. The arm explant in fact represents a simplified and controlled regenerating system which may be very useful in regeneration experiments by providing a valuable test of our hypotheses in terms of mechanisms and processes. In the present study we carried out a comprehensive analysis of double-amputated arm explants (i.e. explants reamputated at their distal end immediately after the first proximal amputation) subjected to the same experimental conditions as the regenerating donor animals. Our results showed that the explants undergo similar regenerative processes but with some significant differences to those mechanisms described for normal regenerating arms. For example, whilst the proximal-distal axis of arm growth is maintained, there are differences in terms of the recruitment of cells which contribute to the regenerating tissue. As with normal regenerating arms, the present work focuses on (1) timing and modality of regeneration in the explant; (2) proliferation, migration and contribution of undifferentiated and/or dedifferentiated/transdifferentiated cells; (3) putative role of neural growth factors. These problems were addressed by employing a combination of conventional microscopy and immunocytochemistry. Comparison between arm explants and regenerating arms of normal donor adults indicates an extraordinary potential and regenerative autonomy of crinoid tissues and the cellular plasticity of the phenomenon.
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