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Planarians have been established as an ideal model organism for stem cell research and regeneration. Planarian regeneration and homeostasis require an exquisite balancing act between cell death and cell proliferation as new tissues are made (epimorphosis) and existing tissues remodeled (morphallaxis). Some of the genes and mechanisms that control cell proliferation and pattern formation are known. However, studies about cell death during remodeling are few and far between. We have studied the gene Gtdap-1, the planarian ortholog of human death-associated protein-1 or DAP-1. DAP-1 together with DAP-kinase has been identified as a positive mediator of programmed cell death induced by gamma-interferon in HeLa cells. We have found that the gene functions at the interface between autophagy and cell death in the remodeling of the organism that occurs during regeneration and starvation in sexual and asexual races of planarians. Our data suggest that autophagy of existing cells may be essential to fuel the continued proliferation and differentiation of stem cells by providing the necessary energy and building blocks to neoblasts.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





640 - 642


Animals, Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins, Autophagy, Genes, Helminth, Planarians, Regeneration, Starvation