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Keywords:

  • adult somatic stem cell;
  • germline-specific genes;
  • neoblast;
  • planarian;
  • pluripotency

Freshwater planarians, Plathelminthes, have been an intriguing model animal of regeneration studies for more than 100 years. Their robust regenerative ability is one of asexual reproductive capacity, in which complete animals develop from tiny body fragments within a week. Pluripotent adult somatic stem cells, called neoblasts, assure this regenerative ability. Neoblasts give rise to not only all types of somatic cells, but also germline cells. During the last decade, several experimental techniques for the analysis of planarian neoblasts at the molecular level, such as in situ hybridization, RNAi and fluorescence activated cell sorting, have been established. Moreover, information about genes involved in maintenance and differentiation of neoblasts has been accumulated. One of the molecular features of neoblasts is the expression of many RNA regulators, which are involved in germline development in other animals, such as vasa and piwi family genes. In this review, we introduce physiological and molecular features of the neoblast, and discuss how germline genes regulate planarian neoblasts and what differences exist between neoblasts and germline cells.