Scar-Free Wound Healing and Regeneration Following Tail Loss in the Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius



Many lizards are able to undergo scar-free wound healing and regeneration following loss of the tail. In most instances, lizard tail loss is facilitated by autotomy, an evolved mechanism that permits the tail to be self-detached at pre-existing fracture planes. However, it has also been reported that the tail can regenerate following surgical amputation outside the fracture plane. In this study, we used the leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius, to investigate and compare wound healing and regeneration following autotomy at a fracture plane and amputation outside the fracture plane. Both forms of tail loss undergo a nearly identical sequence of events leading to scar-free wound healing and regeneration. Early wound healing is characterized by transient myofibroblasts and the formation of a highly proliferative wound epithelium immunoreactive for the wound keratin marker WE6. The new tail forms from what is commonly referred to as a blastema, a mass of proliferating mesenchymal-like cells. Blastema cells express the protease matrix metalloproteinase-9. Apoptosis (demonstrated by activated caspase 3 immunostaining) is largely restricted to isolated cells of the original and regenerating tail tissues, although cell death also occurs within dermal structures at the original-regenerated tissue interface and among clusters of newly formed myocytes. Furthermore, the autotomized tail is unique in demonstrating apoptosis among cells adjacent to the fracture planes. Unlike mammals, transforming growth factor-β3 is not involved in wound healing. We demonstrate that scar-free wound healing and regeneration are intrinsic properties of the tail, unrelated to the location or mode of tail detachment. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2012 Wiley-Periodicals, Inc.