Int. J. Dev. Biol. 56: 127 - 133 (2012)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.113432mi
© UBC Press

Stem cell protection mechanisms in planarians: the role of some heat shock genes

Maria-Emilia Isolani, Maria Conte, Paolo Deri and Renata Batistoni*

Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

ABSTRACT Planarians contain a large population of stem cells, named neoblasts, and use these for continuous turnover of all cell types. In addition, thanks to the amazing flexibility of these cells, planarians respond well to the effects of stressful situations, for example activating regeneration after trauma. How neoblasts respond to stress and support continuous proliferation, maintaining long-term stability, is still an open question. Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are a complex protein family with key roles in maintaining protein homeostasis, as well as in apoptosis and growth-related processes. We recently characterized some planarian homologs of hsp genes that are highly expressed in mammalian stem cells, and observed that some of them are critical for neoblast survival/maintenance. The results of these studies support the notion that some HSPs play crucial roles in the modulation of pathways regulating stem cell activity, regeneration and tissue repair. In this review we compare the evidence available for planarian hsp genes and focus on questions emerging from these results.

Keywords:

planaria, stem cell, heat shock gene, gene expression, RNAi

*Corresponding author e-mail: rbatistoni@biologia.unipi.it