BMP suppresses WNT to integrate patterning of orthogonal body axes in adult planarians

bioRxiv. 2023 Jan 12:2023.01.10.523528. doi: 10.1101/2023.01.10.523528. Preprint


Adult regeneration restores patterning of orthogonal body axes after damage in a post-embryonic context. Planarians regenerate using distinct body-wide signals primarily regulating each axis dimension: anteroposterior Wnts, dorsoventral BMP, and mediolateral Wnt5 and Slit determinants. How regeneration can consistently form perpendicular tissue axes without symmetry-breaking embryonic events is unknown, and could either occur using fully independent, or alternatively, integrated signals defining each dimension. Here, we report that the planarian dorsoventral regulator bmp4 suppresses the posterior determinant wnt1 to pattern the anteroposterior axis. Double-FISH identified distinct anteroposterior domains within dorsal midline muscle that express either bmp4 or wnt1 . Homeostatic inhibition bmp4 and smad1 expanded the wnt1 expression anteriorly, while elevation of BMP signaling through nog1;nog2 RNAi reduced the wnt1 expression domain. BMP signal perturbation broadly affected anteroposterior identity as measured by expression of posterior Wnt pathway factors, without affecting head regionalization. Therefore, dorsal BMP signals broadly limit posterior identity. Furthermore, bmp4 RNAi caused medial expansion of the lateral determinant wnt5 and reduced expression of the medial regulator slit . Double RNAi of bmp4 and wnt5 resulted in lateral ectopic eye phenotypes, suggesting bmp4 acts upstream of wnt5 to pattern the mediolateral axis. Therefore, bmp4 acts at the top of a patterning hierarchy both to control dorsoventral information and also, through suppression of Wnt signals, to regulate anteroposterior and mediolateral identity. These results reveal that adult pattern formation involves integration of signals controlling individual orthogonal axes.

Author summary: Systems that coordinate long-range communication across axes are likely critical for enabling tissue restoration in regenerative animals. While individual axis pathways have been identified, there is not yet an understanding of how signal integration allows repatterning across 3-dimensions. Here, we report an unanticipated linkage between anteroposterior, dorsoventral, and mediolateral systems in planarians through BMP signaling. We find that dorsally expressed BMP restricts posterior and lateral identity by suppressing distinct Wnt signals in adult planarians. These results demonstrate that orthogonal axis information is not fully independent and suggest a potentially ancient role of integrated axis patterning in generating stable 3-dimensional adult forms.

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