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Pluripotent stem cells hold great potential for regenerative medicine. Increased replication and division, such is the case during regeneration, concomitantly increases the risk of adverse outcomes through the acquisition of mutations. Seeking for driving mechanisms of such outcomes, we challenged a pluripotent stem cell system during the tightly controlled regeneration process in the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea Exposure to the genotoxic compound methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) revealed that despite a similar DNA-damaging effect along the anteroposterior axis of intact animals, responses differed between anterior and posterior fragments after amputation. Stem cell proliferation and differentiation proceeded successfully in the amputated heads, leading to regeneration of missing tissues. Stem cells in the amputated tails showed decreased proliferation and differentiation capacity. As a result, tails could not regenerate. Interference with the body-axis-associated component β-catenin-1 increased regenerative success in tail fragments by stimulating proliferation at an early time point. Our results suggest that differences in the Wnt signalling gradient along the body axis modulate stem cell responses to MMS.

Original publication




Journal article


J Cell Sci

Publication Date





DNA damage, Planarian, Regeneration, Stem cell, β-catenin