Transdifferentiation is a driving force of regeneration in Halisarca dujardini (Demospongiae, Porifera)
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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The ability to regenerate is widespread in the animal kingdom, but the regenerative capacities and mechanisms vary widely. To understand the evolutionary history of the diverse regeneration mechanisms, the regeneration processes must be studied in early-evolved metazoans in addition to the traditional bilaterian and cnidarian models. For this purpose, we have combined several microscopy techniques to study mechanisms of regeneration in the demosponge Halisarca dujardini. The objectives of this work are to detect the cells and morphogenetic processes involved in Halisarca regeneration. We show that in Halisarca there are three main sources of the new exopinacoderm during regeneration: choanocytes, archaeocytes and (rarely) endopinacocytes. Here we show that epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET) occur during Halisarca regeneration. EMT is the principal mechanism during the first stages of regeneration, soon after the injury. Epithelial cells from damaged and adjacent intact choanocyte chambers and aquiferous canals assume mesenchymal phenotype and migrate into the mesohyl. Together with archaeocytes, these cells form an undifferentiated cell mass beneath of wound, which we refer to as a blastema. After the blastema is formed, MET becomes the principal mechanism of regeneration. Altogether, we demonstrate that regeneration in demosponges involves a variety of processes utilized during regeneration in other animals (e.g., cell migration, dedifferentiation, blastema formation) and points to the particular importance of transdifferentiation in this process. Further studies will be needed to uncover the molecular mechanisms governing regeneration in sponges.