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Keywords:

  • ascidian;
  • regeneration;
  • retinoic acid;
  • transdifferentiation

The protochordate ascidian Polyandrocarpa misakiensis has a striking ability to regenerate. When the posterior half of the adult body is amputated, the anterior half completely loses the esophagus, stomach and intestine. These organs are reconstituted in a week. Histological observation revealed that the regeneration involves transdifferentiation of the atrial epithelium near the cut surface. The morphological features of the gut primordium were similar to those observed in the developing bud of this species. Inhibitors of the synthesis of retinoic acid (RA) suppressed the formation of the gut. 13-cis RA rescued the regenerates from the inhibitor-induced hypoplasia. These results suggest that RA is required for the regeneration of the gut. A gene encoding the RA receptor (Pm-RAR) and its target gene, TRAMP, were expressed in and around the regenerating gut. Pm-RAR-specific and TRAMP-specific double-stranded RNA molecules inhibited the regeneration of the gut, indicating that the RA signal is mediated at least in part by Pm-RAR and TRAMP. These results suggested that RA triggers the transdifferentiation of the atrial epithelium into the gut in regenerating animals, as it does during asexual reproduction.