Here, we ask why the nail base is essential for mammalian digit tip regeneration, focusing on the inductive nail mesenchyme. We identify a transcriptional signature for these cells that includes Lmx1b and show that the Lmx1b-expressing nail mesenchyme is essential for blastema formation. We use a combination of Lmx1bCreERT2-based lineage-tracing and single-cell transcriptional analyses to show that the nail mesenchyme contributes cells for two pro-regenerative mechanisms. One group of cells maintains their identity and regenerates the new nail mesenchyme. A second group contributes specifically to the dorsal blastema, loses their nail mesenchyme phenotype, acquires a blastema transcriptional state that is highly similar to blastema cells of other origins, and ultimately contributes to regeneration of the dorsal but not ventral dermis and bone. Thus, the regenerative necessity for an intact nail base is explained, at least in part, by a requirement for the inductive nail mesenchyme.
Keywords: CP: Developmental biology; CP: Stem cell research; Lmx1b; blastema; cell ablation; digit tip regeneration; mesenchymal cells; nail mesenchyme; regeneration; single cell transcriptomics.
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