Certain cells of the animal change to overcome the loss of its nervous system
Champion of regeneration, the freshwater polyp Hydra is capable of reforming a complete individual from any fragment of its body. It is even able to remain alive when all its neurons have disappeared. Researcher the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, have discovered how:
cells of the epithelial type modify their genetic program by overexpressing a series of genes, among which some are involved in diverse nervous functions. Studying Hydra cellular plasticity may thus influence research in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. The results are published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
The freshwater Hydra is endowed with an extraordinary power of regeneration, discovered by the Swiss naturalist Abraham Trembley more than 250 years ago. The group of Brigitte Galliot, professor at the Department of Genetics and Evolution of the Faculty of Science of UNIGE, has studied the stem cells functioning and cellular plasticity of the polyp:
«its nervous system regulates in particular contraction bursts, feeding behavior, moving or swimming. If the stem cells responsible for its renewal are depleted, the Hydra can still develop, even when all its neurons have disappeared. We wanted to understand how this is possible.»
Enhancing other cells' sensing ability
The researchers compared gene expression at various positions along the body axis in polyps devoid or not of their nervous stem cells. They observed a modification of the genetic program in animals depleted of these cells: «we identified 25 overexpressed genes in epithelial cells, the cells forming the Hydra's coating tissues. Some of these genes are involved in diverse nervous functions, such as neurogenesis or neurotransmission», says Yvan Wenger, co-first author of the article.
«Epithelial cells do not possess typical neuronal functions. However, Hydra's loss of neurogenesis induces epithelial cells to modify their genetic program accordingly, indicating that they are ready to assume some of these functions.
These "naturally" genetically modified epithelial cells are thus likely to enhance their sensitivity and response to environmental signals, to partially compensate for the lack of nervous system», explains Wanda Buzgariu, co-first author of the article. The detail of these new functions remains to be discovered, as well as how epithelial cells proceed to overexpress these genes and thus adapt their genetic program.
Cellular plasticity maintains youth
Studying Hydra's cellular plasticity may be relevant in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. Indeed, some of the genes identified in this animal play an important role in cellular reprogramming or in neurogenesis in mammals. The researchers therefore wonder: would it be possible to restore sensing or secretion functions from other cell types, when some neurons degenerate?
This study also allows to go back to the origins of nervous systems. Epithelial cells most probably preceded nerve cells, performing some of their functions, although in a much slower way. «The loss of neurogenesis in Hydra may provide an opportunity to observe a reverse evolutive process, because it sheds light on a repressed ancestral genetic toolkit. An atavism of epithelial cells, when they most probably also possessed proto-neuronal functions», concludes Brigitte Galliot.
Brigitte Galliot | EurekAlert!
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy