Injury-induced MAPK activation triggers body axis formation in Hydra by default Wnt signaling
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2022, 119 (35), e2204122119. 10.1073/pnas.2204122119
Hydra’s almost unlimited regenerative potential is based on Wnt signaling, but so far it is unknown how the injury stimulus is transmitted to discrete patterning fates in head and foot regenerates. We previously identified mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) among the earliest injury response molecules in Hydra head regeneration. Here, we show that three MAPKs—p38, c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs), and extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs)—are essential to initiate regeneration in Hydra, independent of the wound position. Their activation occurs in response to any injury and requires calcium and reactive oxygen species (ROS) signaling. Phosphorylated MAPKs hereby exhibit cross talk with mutual antagonism between the ERK pathway and stress-induced MAPKs, orchestrating a balance between cell survival and apoptosis. Importantly, Wnt3 and Wnt9/10c, which are induced by MAPK signaling, can partially rescue regeneration in tissues treated with MAPK inhibitors. Also, foot regenerates can be reverted to form head tissue by a pharmacological increase of β-catenin signaling or the application of recombinant Wnts. We propose a model in which a β-catenin-based stable gradient of head-forming capacity along the primary body axis, by differentially integrating an indiscriminate injury response, determines the fate of the regenerating tissue. Hereby, Wnt signaling acquires sustained activation in the head regenerate, while it is transient in the presumptive foot tissue. Given the high level of evolutionary conservation of MAPKs and Wnts, we assume that this mechanism is deeply embedded in our genome.