The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 56: 463 - 472 (2012)

Vol 56, Issue 6-7-8

Special Issue: The Hydra Model System

Transplantation analysis of developmental mechanisms in Hydra

Published: 5 June 2012

Hiroshi Shimizu*

National Institute of Genetics, Yata, Mishima, Shizuoka, Japan


Since the pioneering work of Ethel Browne (1909) who demonstrated for the first time the concept of organizer activity, i.e. the potency of an apical Hydra tissue to induce a secondary axis when transplanted onto a host, Hydra flourished as a fruitful model system for developmental studies. Over the next 60 years this efficient transplantation approach identified graded biological activities along the body column of Hydra named Head Acti-vation and Head Inhibition. These properties inspired theoretical modelers including Lewis Wolpert, Alfred Gierer and Hans Meinhardt to propose models for morphogenesis, respectively the positional information (1969) and reaction-diffusion (1972) models. In 1973, Tsutomu Sugiyama and Toshitaka Fujisawa initiated in Mishima a unique project to analyze the properties of Hydra strains with distinct morphological and developmental characters. To this end, they collected in several areas of Japan multiple Hydra strains that they subsequently characterized and crossed. They also established a lateral transplantation strategy that was much more powerful than the previous ones, as it combined quantitative measurements with cellular analyses thanks to the chimera procedures developed by Campbell and colleagues. In-deed this approach provided a paradigm to quantify in any morphological phenotype the Head Activation and Head Inhibition levels along the body column. In this article, I review the various strains identified by Sugiyama and colleagues, the principles and the main results deduced from the quantitative lateral transplantation strategy. In addition, I briefly discuss the relevance of this approach in the era of molecular biology.


Hydra, regeneration, transplantation, inhibition, positional information, gradient

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