Planarians maintain a constant ratio of different cell types during changes in body size by using the stem cell system

Zoolog Sci. 2009 Dec;26(12):805-13. doi: 10.2108/zsj.26.805.


Planarians change in body size depending upon whether they are in feeding or starving conditions. To investigate how planarians regulate this flexible system, the numbers of total cells and specific cell types were counted and compared among worms 2 mm to 9 mm in body length. The total cell number increased linearly with increasing body length, but the ratio of cell numbers between the head and the trunk portion was constant (1:3). Interestingly, counting the numbers of specific neurons in the eye and brain after immunostaining using cell type-specific antibodies revealed that the ratio between different neuron types was constant regardless of the brain and body size. These results suggest that planarians can maintain proportionality while changing their body size by maintaining a constant ratio of different cell types. To understand this system and reveal how planarians restore the original ratio during eye and brain regeneration, the numbers of specialized cells were Investigated during regeneration. The results further substantiate the existence of some form of "counting mechanism" that has the ability to regulate both the absolute and relative numbers of different cell types in complex organs such as the brain during cell turnover, starvation, and regeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology
  • DNA
  • Eye / cytology
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Planarians / cytology*
  • Planarians / growth & development*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Regeneration
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*


  • Proteins
  • DNA