Bioelectric signaling in regeneration: Mechanisms of ionic controls of growth and form

Dev Biol. 2018 Jan 15;433(2):177-189. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2017.08.032. Epub 2017 Dec 25.


The ability to control pattern formation is critical for the both the embryonic development of complex structures as well as for the regeneration/repair of damaged or missing tissues and organs. In addition to chemical gradients and gene regulatory networks, endogenous ion flows are key regulators of cell behavior. Not only do bioelectric cues provide information needed for the initial development of structures, they also enable the robust restoration of normal pattern after injury. In order to expand our basic understanding of morphogenetic processes responsible for the repair of complex anatomy, we need to identify the roles of endogenous voltage gradients, ion flows, and electric fields. In complement to the current focus on molecular genetics, decoding the information transduced by bioelectric cues enhances our knowledge of the dynamic control of growth and pattern formation. Recent advances in science and technology place us in an exciting time to elucidate the interplay between molecular-genetic inputs and important biophysical cues that direct the creation of tissues and organs. Moving forward, these new insights enable additional approaches to direct cell behavior and may result in profound advances in augmentation of regenerative capacity.

Keywords: Bioelectricity; Ion channel; Patterning; Resting potential; Voltage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Biophysical Phenomena*
  • Body Patterning / physiology
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Movement
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena*
  • Gap Junctions / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Ions / metabolism*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Organ Size
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Regeneration / physiology*
  • Second Messenger Systems


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Ion Channels
  • Ions