Deer antler regeneration: Cells, concepts, and controversies



The periodic replacement of antlers is an exceptional regenerative process in mammals, which in general are unable to regenerate complete body appendages. Antler regeneration has traditionally been viewed as an epimorphic process closely resembling limb regeneration in urodele amphibians, and the terminology of the latter process has also been applied to antler regeneration. More recent studies, however, showed that, unlike urodele limb regeneration, antler regeneration does not involve cell dedifferentiation and the formation of a blastema from these dedifferentiated cells. Rather, these studies suggest that antler regeneration is a stem-cell-based process that depends on the periodic activation of, presumably neural-crest-derived, periosteal stem cells of the distal pedicle. The evidence for this hypothesis is reviewed and as a result, a new concept of antler regeneration as a process of stem-cell-based epimorphic regeneration is proposed that does not involve cell dedifferentiation or transdifferentiation. Antler regeneration illustrates that extensive appendage regeneration in a postnatal mammal can be achieved by a developmental process that differs in several fundamental aspects from limb regeneration in urodeles. J. Morphol., 2007 © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.