Currie KW, Brown DD, Zhu S, Xu C, Voisin V, Bader GD, Pearson BJ
BACKGROUND: Freshwater planarians are well known for their regenerative abilities. Less well known is how planarians maintain spatial patterning in long-lived adult animals or how they re-pattern tissues during regeneration. HOX genes are good candidates to regulate planarian spatial patterning, yet the full complement or genomic clustering of planarian HOX genes has not yet been described, primarily because only a few have been detectable by in situ hybridization, and none have given morphological phenotypes when knocked down by RNAi.
RESULTS: Because the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea (S. mediterranea) is unsegmented, appendage less, and morphologically simple, it has been proposed that it may have a simplified HOX gene complement. Here, we argue against this hypothesis and show that S. mediterranea has a total of 13 HOX genes, which represent homologs to all major axial categories, and can be detected by whole-mount in situ hybridization using a highly sensitive method. In addition, we show that planarian HOX genes do not cluster in the genome, yet 5/13 have retained aspects of axially restricted expression. Finally, we confirm HOX gene axial expression by RNA deep-sequencing 6 anterior-posterior “zones” of the animal, which we provide as a dataset to the community to discover other axially restricted transcripts.
CONCLUSIONS: Freshwater planarians have an unappreciated HOX gene complexity, with all major axial categories represented. However, we conclude based on adult expression patterns that planarians have a derived body plan and their asexual lifestyle may have allowed for large changes in HOX expression from the last common ancestor between arthropods, flatworms, and vertebrates. Using our in situ method and axial zone RNAseq data, it should be possible to further understand the pathways that pattern the anterior-posterior axis of adult planarians.
Duncan EM, Chitsazan AD, Seidel CW, Sánchez Alvarado A
Cell Rep 2015 Dec;13(12):2741-55
Histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) is known to correlate with both active and poised genomic loci, yet many questions remain regarding its functional roles in vivo. We identify functional genomic targets of two H3K4 methyltransferases, Set1 and MLL1/2, in both the stem cells and differentiated tissue of the planarian flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea. We show that, despite their common substrate, these enzymes target distinct genomic loci in vivo, which are distinguishable by the pattern each enzyme leaves on the chromatin template, i.e., the breadth of the H3K4me3 peak. Whereas Set1 targets are largely associated with the maintenance of the stem cell population, MLL1/2 targets are specifically enriched for genes involved in ciliogenesis. These data not only confirm that chromatin regulation is fundamental to planarian stem cell function but also provide evidence for post-embryonic functional specificity of H3K4me3 methyltransferases in vivo.
Wasik K, Gurtowski J, Zhou X, Ramos OM, Delás MJ, Battistoni G, El Demerdash O, Falciatori I, Vizoso DB, Smith AD, Ladurner P, Schärer L, McCombie WR, Hannon GJ, Schatz M
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2015 Oct;112(40):12462-7
The free-living flatworm, Macrostomum lignano has an impressive regenerative capacity. Following injury, it can regenerate almost an entirely new organism because of the presence of an abundant somatic stem cell population, the neoblasts. This set of unique properties makes many flatworms attractive organisms for studying the evolution of pathways involved in tissue self-renewal, cell-fate specification, and regeneration. The use of these organisms as models, however, is hampered by the lack of a well-assembled and annotated genome sequences, fundamental to modern genetic and molecular studies. Here we report the genomic sequence of M. lignano and an accompanying characterization of its transcriptome. The genome structure of M. lignano is remarkably complex, with ∼75% of its sequence being comprised of simple repeats and transposon sequences. This has made high-quality assembly from Illumina reads alone impossible (N50 = 222 bp). We therefore generated 130× coverage by long sequencing reads from the Pacific Biosciences platform to create a substantially improved assembly with an N50 of 64 Kbp. We complemented the reference genome with an assembled and annotated transcriptome, and used both of these datasets in combination to probe gene-expression patterns during regeneration, examining pathways important to stem cell function.
Chan JD, Agbedanu PN, Grab T, Zamanian M, Dosa PI, Day TA, Marchant JS
PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2015 Sep;9(9):e0004063
Praziquantel (PZQ) is a key therapy for treatment of parasitic flatworm infections of humans and livestock, but the mechanism of action of this drug is unresolved. Resolving PZQ-engaged targets and effectors is important for identifying new druggable pathways that may yield novel antiparasitic agents. Here we use functional, genetic and pharmacological approaches to reveal that serotonergic signals antagonize PZQ action in vivo. Exogenous 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) rescued PZQ-evoked polarity and mobility defects in free-living planarian flatworms. In contrast, knockdown of a prevalently expressed planarian 5-HT receptor potentiated or phenocopied PZQ action in different functional assays. Subsequent screening of serotonergic ligands revealed that several ergot alkaloids possessed broad efficacy at modulating regenerative outcomes and the mobility of both free living and parasitic flatworms. Ergot alkaloids that phenocopied PZQ in regenerative assays to cause bipolar regeneration exhibited structural modifications consistent with serotonergic blockade. These data suggest that serotonergic activation blocks PZQ action in vivo, while serotonergic antagonists phenocopy PZQ action. Importantly these studies identify the ergot alkaloid scaffold as a promising structural framework for designing potent agents targeting parasitic bioaminergic G protein coupled receptors.
Koziol U, Radio S, Smircich P, Zarowiecki M, Fernández C, Brehm K
Genome Biol Evol 2015 Aug;7(8):2136-53
Taeniid cestodes (including the human parasites Echinococcus spp. and Taenia solium) have very few mobile genetic elements (MGEs) in their genome, despite lacking a canonical PIWI pathway. The MGEs of these parasites are virtually unexplored, and nothing is known about their expression and silencing. In this work, we report the discovery of a novel family of small nonautonomous long terminal repeat retrotransposons (also known as terminal-repeat retrotransposons in miniature, TRIMs) which we have named ta-TRIM (taeniid TRIM). ta-TRIMs are only the second family of TRIM elements discovered in animals, and are likely the result of convergent reductive evolution in different taxonomic groups. These elements originated at the base of the taeniid tree and have expanded during taeniid diversification, including after the divergence of closely related species such as Echinococcus multilocularis and Echinococcus granulosus. They are massively expressed in larval stages, from a small proportion of full-length copies and from isolated terminal repeats that show transcriptional read-through into downstream regions, generating novel noncoding RNAs and transcriptional fusions to coding genes. In E. multilocularis, ta-TRIMs are specifically expressed in the germinative cells (the somatic stem cells) during asexual reproduction of metacestode larvae. This would provide a developmental mechanism for insertion of ta-TRIMs into cells that will eventually generate the adult germ line. Future studies of active and inactive ta-TRIM elements could give the first clues on MGE silencing mechanisms in cestodes.
Robb SM, Gotting K, Ross E, Sánchez Alvarado A
Genesis 2015 Aug;53(8):535-46
Planarians have emerged as excellent models for the study of key biological processes such as stem cell function and regulation, axial polarity specification, regeneration, and tissue homeostasis among others. The most widely used organism for these studies is the free-living flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea. In 2007, the Schmidtea mediterranea Genome Database (SmedGD) was first released to provide a much needed resource for the small, but growing planarian community. SmedGD 1.0 has been a depository for genome sequence, a draft assembly, and related experimental data (e.g., RNAi phenotypes, in situ hybridization images, and differential gene expression results). We report here a comprehensive update to SmedGD (SmedGD 2.0) that aims to expand its role as an interactive community resource. The new database includes more recent, and up-to-date transcription data, provides tools that enhance interconnectivity between different genome assemblies and transcriptomes, including next-generation assemblies for both the sexual and asexual biotypes of S. mediterranea. SmedGD 2.0 (http://smedgd.stowers.org) not only provides significantly improved gene annotations, but also tools for data sharing, attributes that will help both the planarian and biomedical communities to more efficiently mine the genomics and transcriptomics of S. mediterranea.
Tejada-Romero B, Carter JM, Mihaylova Y, Neumann B, Aboobaker AA
Development 2015 Jul;142(14):2413-24
Regeneration involves the integration of new and old tissues in the context of an adult life history. It is clear that the core conserved signalling pathways that orchestrate development also play central roles in regeneration, and further study of conserved signalling pathways is required. Here we have studied the role of the conserved JNK signalling cascade during planarian regeneration. Abrogation of JNK signalling by RNAi or pharmacological inhibition blocks posterior regeneration and animals fail to express posterior markers. While the early injury-induced expression of polarity markers is unaffected, the later stem cell-dependent phase of posterior Wnt expression is not established. This defect can be rescued by overactivation of the Hh or Wnt signalling pathway to promote posterior Wnt activity. Together, our data suggest that JNK signalling is required to establish stem cell-dependent Wnt expression after posterior injury. Given that Jun is known to be required in vertebrates for the expression of Wnt and Wnt target genes, we propose that this interaction may be conserved and is an instructive part of planarian posterior regeneration.
Zhu SJ, Hallows SE, Currie KW, Xu C, Pearson BJ
Neoblasts are adult stem cells (ASCs) in planarians that sustain cell replacement during homeostasis and regeneration of any missing tissue. While numerous studies have examined genes underlying neoblast pluripotency, molecular pathways driving postmitotic fates remain poorly defined. In this study, we used transcriptional profiling of irradiation-sensitive and irradiation-insensitive cell populations and RNA interference (RNAi) functional screening to uncover markers and regulators of postmitotic progeny. We identified 32 new markers distinguishing two main epithelial progenitor populations and a planarian homolog to the MEX3 RNA-binding protein (Smed-mex3-1) as a key regulator of lineage progression. mex3-1 was required for generating differentiated cells of multiple lineages, while restricting the size of the stem cell compartment. We also demonstrated the utility of using mex3-1(RNAi) animals to identify additional progenitor markers. These results identified mex3-1 as a cell fate regulator, broadly required for differentiation, and suggest that mex3-1 helps to mediate the balance between ASC self-renewal and commitment.
Moguel B, Bobes RJ, Carrero JC, Laclette JP
Biomed Res Int 2015;2015:206161
Flatworms are one of the most diverse groups within Lophotrochozoa with more than 20,000 known species, distributed worldwide in different ecosystems, from the free-living organisms in the seas and lakes to highly specialized parasites living in a variety of hosts, including humans. Several infections caused by flatworms are considered major neglected diseases affecting countries in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. For several decades, a particular interest on free-living flatworms was due to their ability to regenerate considerable portions of the body, implying the presence of germ cells that could be important for medicine. The relevance of reverse genetics for this group is clear; understanding the phenotypic characteristics of specific genes will shed light on developmental traits of free-living and parasite worms. The genetic manipulation of flatworms will allow learning more about the mechanisms for tissue regeneration, designing new and more effective anthelmintic drugs, and explaining the host-parasite molecular crosstalk so far partially inaccessible for experimentation. In this review, availability of transfection techniques is analyzed across flatworms, from the initial transient achievements to the stable manipulations now developed for free-living and parasite species.
Rinaldi G, Young ND, Honeycutt JD, Brindley PJ, Gasser RB, Hsieh MH
J. Infect. Dis. 2015 Mar;211(6):861-9
Approximately 200,000,000 people have schistosomiasis (schistosome infection). Among the schistosomes, Schistosoma haematobium is responsible for the most infections, which are present in 110 million people globally, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. This pathogen causes an astonishing breadth of sequelae: hematuria, anemia, dysuria, stunting, uremia, bladder cancer, urosepsis, and human immunodeficiency virus coinfection. Refined estimates of the impact of schistosomiasis on quality of life suggest that it rivals malaria. Despite S. haematobium’s importance, relevant research has lagged. Here, we review advances that will deepen knowledge of S. haematobium. Three sets of breakthroughs will accelerate discoveries in the pathogenesis of urogenital schistosomiasis (UGS): (1) comparative genomics, (2) the development of functional genomic tools, and (3) the use of animal models to explore S. haematobium-host interactions. Comparative genomics for S. haematobium is feasible, given the sequencing of multiple schistosome genomes. Features of the S. haematobium genome that are conserved among platyhelminth species and others that are unique to S. haematobium may provide novel diagnostic and drug targets for UGS. Although there are technical hurdles, the integrated use of these approaches can elucidate host-pathogen interactions during this infection and can inform the development of techniques for investigating schistosomes in their human and snail hosts and the development of therapeutics and vaccines for the control of UGS.