Beta-catenin defines head versus tail identity during planarian regeneration and homeostasis

Science. 2008 Jan 18;319(5861):323-7. doi: 10.1126/science.1150029. Epub 2007 Dec 6.


After amputation, freshwater planarians properly regenerate a head or tail from the resulting anterior or posterior wound. The mechanisms that differentiate anterior from posterior and direct the replacement of the appropriate missing body parts are unknown. We found that in the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea, RNA interference (RNAi) of beta-catenin or dishevelled causes the inappropriate regeneration of a head instead of a tail at posterior amputations. Conversely, RNAi of the beta-catenin antagonist adenomatous polyposis coli results in the regeneration of a tail at anterior wounds. In addition, the silencing of beta-catenin is sufficient to transform the tail of uncut adult animals into a head. We suggest that beta-catenin functions as a molecular switch to specify and maintain anteroposterior identity during regeneration and homeostasis in planarians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / chemistry
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / physiology
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein / chemistry
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein / physiology
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Dishevelled Proteins
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genes, APC
  • Head
  • Helminth Proteins / chemistry
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics
  • Helminth Proteins / physiology
  • Homeostasis
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phosphoproteins / chemistry
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / physiology
  • Planarians / genetics
  • Planarians / physiology*
  • RNA Interference
  • Regeneration*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tail
  • beta Catenin / chemistry
  • beta Catenin / genetics
  • beta Catenin / physiology*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein
  • Dishevelled Proteins
  • Helminth Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • beta Catenin

Associated data

  • GENBANK/EU130785
  • GENBANK/EU130786
  • GENBANK/EU130787
  • GENBANK/EU130788
  • GENBANK/EU130789
  • GENBANK/EU130790
  • GENBANK/EU130791