Insights into the evolution of metazoan regenerative mechanisms: TGF superfamily member roles in tissue regeneration of the marine sponge Chondrosia reniformis Nardo, 1847 [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Marina Pozzolini, Lorenzo Gallus, Stefano Ghignone, Sara Ferrando, Simona Candiani, Matteo Bozzo, Marco Bertolino, Gabriele Costa, Giorgio Bavestrello, and Sonia Scarfi

Tissue repair is an adaptive and widespread metazoan response. It is characterised by different cellular mechanisms and complex signalling networks that involve numerous growth factors and cytokines. In higher animals, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signalling plays a fundamental role in wound healing. In order to evaluate the involvement of TGF superfamily members in lower invertebrate tissue regeneration, sequences for putative TGF ligands and receptors were isolated from the transcriptome of the marine sponge Chondrosia reniformis. We identified seven transcripts that coded for TGF superfamily ligands and three for TGF superfamily receptors. Phylogenetically, C. reniformis TGF ligands were not grouped into any TGF superfamily clades and thus presumably evolved independently, whereas the TGF receptors clustered in the Type I receptor group. We performed gene expression profiling of these transcripts in sponge regenerating tissue explants. Data showed that three ligands (TGF1, TGF3 and TGF6) were mainly expressed during early regeneration and seemed to be involved in stem cell maintenance, while other two (TGF4 and TGF5) were strongly upregulated during late regeneration and thus considered pro-differentiating factors. The presence of a strong TGF inhibitor, SB431542, blocked the restoration of the exopinacoderm layer in the sponge explants, confirming the functional involvement of the TGF-pathway in tissue regeneration also in these early evolved animals.

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