Developmental control genes in regeneration

“Perfect” regeneration of complex structures is accomplished through the coordination of proliferation, cell death, metabolism, cell migration, and patterning events. The signalling pathways responsible for normal development need to be re-initiated after wound healing in the correct spatio-temporal sequences to ensure integration of the new structures with the remaining mature tissues. We are interested in how developmental control genes like homeobox transcription factors (e.g. Hox, Pax) are re-deployed during regeneration in different groups. Specifically, can we identify commonalities in their expression and function during regeneration of the amphioxus tail, an axial structure, and the annelid operculum, an evolutionary novelty? How much does regeneration really recapitulate development? In collaboration with Dr Ferrier, we are combining transcriptomics of regenerating tissues with in situ hybridisation to visualise patterns of gene expression in an effort to characterise these systems.

Pax3/7, shown in purple, is expressed in the CNS as well as the elongating tail bud of the amphioxus late neurula stage embryo. It is also expressed in the regenerating adult tail. The anterior of the embryo is to the left, and dorsal is up (Photo: Ildiko Somorjai).