Serotonin is essential for eye regeneration in planaria Schmidtea mediterranea

FEBS Lett. 2019 Nov;593(22):3198-3209. doi: 10.1002/1873-3468.13607. Epub 2019 Sep 27.


Planaria is an ideal system to study factors involved in regeneration and tissue homeostasis. Little is known about the role of metabolites and small molecules in stem cell maintenance and lineage specification in planarians. Using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (LC-MS)-based quantitative metabolomics, we determined the relative levels of metabolites in stem cells, progenitors, and differentiated cells of the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea. Tryptophan and its metabolic product serotonin are significantly enriched in stem cells and progenitor population. Serotonin biosynthesis in these cells is brought about by a noncanonical enzyme, phenylalanine hydroxylase. Knockdown of Smed-pah leads to complete disappearance of eyes in regenerating planaria, while exogenous supply of serotonin and its precursor rescues the eyeless phenotype. Our results demonstrate a key role for serotonin in eye regeneration.

Keywords: LC-MS; eye regeneration; phenylalanine hydroxylase; planaria; serotonin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena
  • Phenylalanine Hydroxylase / metabolism
  • Planarians / physiology*
  • Regeneration
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Tryptophan / metabolism


  • Serotonin
  • Tryptophan
  • Phenylalanine Hydroxylase