Urodele amphibians, newts and salamanders, can regenerate lesioned spinal cord at any stage of the life cycle and are the only tetrapod vertebrates that regenerate spinal cord completely as adults. The ependymal cells play a key role in this process in both gap replacement and caudal regeneration. The ependymal response helps to produce a different response to neural injury compared with mammalian neural injury. The regenerating urodele cord produces new neurons as well as supporting axonal regrowth. It is not yet clear to what extent urodele spinal cord regeneration recapitulates embryonic anteroposterior and dorsoventral patterning gene expression to achieve functional reconstruction. The source of axial patterning signals in regeneration would be substantially different from those in developing tissue, perhaps with signals propagated from the stump tissue. Examination of the effects of fibroblast growth factor and epidermal growth factor on ependymal cells in vivo and in vitro suggest a connection with neural stem cell behavior as described in developing and mature mammalian central nervous system. This review coordinates the urodele regeneration literature with axial patterning, stem cell, and neural injury literature from other systems to describe our current understanding and assess the gaps in our knowledge about urodele spinal cord regeneration.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.