The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 56: 165 - 171 (2012)

Vol 56, Issue 1-2-3

Special Issue: The Planaria Model System

The Dr-nanos gene is essential for germ cell specification in the planarian Dugesia ryukyuensis

Published: 9 March 2012

Haruka Nakagawa, Hirotsugu Ishizu, Ayako Chinone,Kazuya Kobayashi and Midori Matsumoto*

Department of Biological Sciences and Informatics, Keio University, Hiyoshi, Kouhoku-ku, Yokohama, Japan


Homologs of nanos are required for the formation and maintenance of germline stem cell (GSC) systems and for gametogenesis in many metazoans. Planarians can change their reproductive mode seasonally, alternating between asexual and sexual reproduction; they develop and maintain their somatic stem cells (SSCs) and GCSs from pluripotent stem cells known as neoblasts. We isolated a nanos homolog, Dr-nanos, from the expressed sequence tags (ESTs) of the sexualized form of Dugesia ryukyuensis. We examined the expression of Dr-nanos in asexual and sexualized planarians by in situ hybridization and analyzed its function using RNA interference (RNAi) together with a planarian sexualization assay. A nanos homolog, Dr-nanos, was identified in the planarian D. ryukyuensis. Dr-nanos expression was observed in the ovarian primordial cells of the asexual worms. This expression increased in proportion to sexualization and was localized in the early germline cells of the ovaries and testes. In X-ray-irradiated worms, the expression of Dr-nanos decreased to a large extent, indicating that Dr-nanos is expressed in some subpopulations of stem cells, especially in GSCs. During the sexualization process, worms in which Dr-nanos was knocked down by RNAi exhibited decreased numbers of oogonia in the ovaries and failed to develop testes, whereas the somatic sexual organs were not affected. We conclude that Dr-nanos is essential for the development of germ cells in the ovaries and testes and may have a function in the early stages of germ cell specification, but not in the development of somatic sexual organs.


planarian, Nanos, germline stem cell, germ cell specification

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