Longitudinal and circular muscle fibres have distinct regulatory roles during planarian regeneration.
The ability to regenerate missing body parts exists throughout the animal kingdom. Positional information is crucial for regeneration, but how it is harboured and used by differentiated tissues is poorly understood. In planarians, positional information has been identified from study of phenotypes caused by RNA interference in which the wrong tissues are regenerated. For example, inhibition of the Wnt signalling pathway leads to regeneration of heads in place of tails1,2,3. Characterization of these phenotypes has led to the identification of position control genes (PCGs)—genes that are expressed in a constitutive and regional manner and are associated with patterning. Most PCGs are expressed within planarian muscle4; however, how muscle is specified and how different muscle subsets affect regeneration is unknown. Here we show that different muscle fibres have distinct regulatory roles during regeneration in the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea. myoD is required for formation of a specific muscle cell subset: the longitudinal fibres, oriented along the anterior-posterior axis. Loss of longitudinal fibres led to complete regeneration failure because of defects in regeneration initiation. A different transcription factor-encoding gene, nkx1-1, is required for the formation of circular fibres, oriented along the medial-lateral axis. Loss of circular fibres led to a bifurcated anterior-posterior axis with fused heads forming in single anterior blastemas. Whereas muscle is often viewed as a strictly contractile tissue, these findings reveal that different muscle types have distinct and specific regulatory roles in wound signalling and patterning to enable regeneration.