In an adult hydra the head organizer, located in the hypostome, is constantly active in maintaining the structure of the animal in the context of its steady state tissue dynamics. Several Wnt genes, TCF, and elevated levels of beta-catenin are expressed in the hypostome as well as during the formation of a new organizer region in developing buds suggesting they play a role in the organizer. Transgenic hydra were generated in which a modified hydra beta-catenin gene driven by an actin promoter is continuously expressed at a high level throughout the animal. These animals formed heads and secondary axes in multiple locations along the body column. Transplantation experiments indicate they have a high and stable level of head organizer activity throughout the body columns. However, none of the Wnt genes are expressed in the body columns of these transgenic animals. Further, in alsterpaullone-treated animals, which results in a transient rise in head organizer activity throughout the body column, the time of expression of the Wnt genes is much shorter than the time of the elevated level of head inducing activity. These results for the first time provide direct functional evidence that beta-catenin plays a crucial role in the maintenance and activity of the head organizer and suggest that Wnt ligands may be required only for the initiation but not in maintenance of the organizer in Hydra.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.