Planarians have robust regenerative ability dependent on X-ray-sensitive pluripotent stem cells, called neoblasts. Here, we report that planarians can regenerate dopaminergic neurons after selective degeneration of these neurons caused by treatment with a dopaminergic neurotoxin (6-hydroxydopamine; 6-OHDA). This suggests that planarians have a system to sense the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons and to recruit stem cells to produce dopaminergic neurons to recover brain morphology and function. We confirmed that X-ray-irradiated planarians do not regenerate brain dopaminergic neurons after 6-OHDA-induced lesioning, suggesting that newly generated dopaminergic neurons are indeed derived from pluripotent stem cells. However, we found that the majority of regenerated dopaminergic neurons were 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine-negative cells. Therefore, we carefully analyzed when proliferating stem cells became committed to become dopaminergic neurons during regeneration by a combination of 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine pulse-chase experiments, immunostaining/in situ hybridization, and 5-fluorouracil treatment. The results strongly suggested that G2-phase stem cells become committed to dopaminergic neurons in the mesenchymal space around the brain, after migration from the trunk region following S-phase. These new findings obtained from planarian regeneration provide hints about how to conduct cell-transplantation therapy for future regenerative medicine.
J. Neurochem. (2011) 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2011.07518.x