The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 61: 53 - 63 (2017)

Vol 61, Issue 1-2

The pioneer factor Smed-gata456-1 is required for gut cell differentiation and maintenance in planarians

Published: 3 March 2017

Alejandro González-Sastre, Nídia De Sousa, Teresa Adell and Emili Saló*

Departament de Genètica, Microbiologia i Estadística,Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona and Institut de Biomedicina de la Universitat de Barcelona (IBUB), Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain


How adult stem cells differentiate into different cell types remains one of the most intriguing questions in regenerative medicine. Pioneer factors are transcription factors that can bind to and open chromatin, and are among the first elements involved in cell differentiation. We used the freshwater planarian Schmidtea mediterranea as a model system to study the role of the gata456 family of pioneer factors in gut cell differentiation during both regeneration and maintenance of the digestive system. Our findings reveal the presence of two members of the gata456 family in the Schmidtea mediterranea genome; Smed-gata456-1 and Smed-gata456-2. Our results show that Smed-gata456-1 is the only ortholog with a gut cell-related function. Smed-gata456-1 is essential for the differentiation of precursors into intestinal cells and for the survival of these differentiated cells, indicating a key role in gut regeneration and maintenance. Furthermore, tissues other than the gut appear normal following Smed-gata456-1 RNA interference (RNAi), indicating a gut-specific function. Importantly, different neoblast subtypes are unaffected by Smed-gata456-1(RNAi), suggesting that 1) Smed-gata456-1 is involved in the differentiation and maintenance, but not in the early determination, of gut cells; and 2) that the stem cell compartment is not dependent on a functional gut.


gut, gata456, planarian, regeneration, differentiation

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