Having the ability to coordinate the behavior of stem cells to induce regeneration of specific large-scale structures would have far-reaching consequences in the treatment of degenerative diseases, acute injury, and aging. Thus, identifying and learning to manipulate the sequential steps that determine the fate of new tissue within the overall morphogenetic program of the organism is fundamental. We identified novel early signals, mediated by the central nervous system and 3 innexin proteins, which determine the fate and axial polarity of regenerated tissue in planarians. Modulation of gap junction-dependent and neural signals specifically induces ectopic anterior regeneration blastemas in posterior and lateral wounds. These ectopic anterior blastemas differentiate new brains that establish permanent primary axes re-established during subsequent rounds of unperturbed regeneration. These data reveal powerful novel controls of pattern formation and suggest a constructive model linking nervous inputs and polarity determination in early stages of regeneration.
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