Self-organization and progenitor targeting generate stable patterns in planarian regeneration

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During animal regeneration, cells must organize into discrete and functional systems. We show that self-organization, along with patterning cues, govern progenitor behavior in planarian regeneration. Surgical paradigms allowed the manipulation of planarian eye regeneration in predictable locations and numbers, generating alternative stable neuroanatomical states for wild-type animals with multiple functional ectopic eyes. We used animals with multiple ectopic eyes and eye transplantation to demonstrate that broad progenitor specification, combined with self-organization, allows anatomy maintenance during regeneration. We propose a model for regenerative progenitors involving (i) migratory targeting cues, (ii) self-organization into existing or regenerating eyes, and (iii) a broad zone, associated with coarse progenitor specification, in which eyes can be targeted by progenitors. These three properties help explain how tissues can be organized during regeneration.

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