Stem cells and neural signalling: the case of neoblast recruitment and plasticity in low dose X-ray treated planarians
Published: 15 March 2012
Leonardo Rossi, Paola Iacopetti and Alessandra Salvetti*
Department of Human Morphology and Applied Biology, University of Pisa, Italy
Planarians (Platyhelminthes) possess an abundant population of adult stem cells, the neoblasts, capable to give rise to both somatic and germ cells. Although neoblasts share similar morphological features, several pieces of evidence suggest that they constitute a heterogeneous population of cells with distinct ultrastructural and molecular features. We found that in planarians treated with low X-ray doses (5 Gy), only a few neoblasts survive. Among these cells, those located close to the nervous system activate an intense proliferation program and migrate to reconstitute the whole complex neoblast population. This phenomenon is inhibited by the substance P receptor antagonist spantide, and accompanied by the up-regulation of a number of genes implicated in neuronal signalling and plasticity, suggesting that signals of neural origin modulate neoblast proliferation and/or migration. Here, we review these findings and the literature available on the influence of the nervous system on stem cell activity, both in planarians and vertebrates, and we propose 5 Gy-treated planarians as a unique model system to study the influence of neural signalling on stem cell biology.