Towards a bioinformatics of patterning: a computational approach to understanding regulative morphogenesis
The mechanisms that define the body pattern during development and regeneration are the object of major concern in developmental biology. To understand the process and sequence of antero-posterior pattern formation of planarian body regions during regeneration, regenerating organisms were treated with exogenous retinoic acid, which affects development and regeneration in other systems, and the sequence of regional determination has been monitored by a specific molecular marker for the central region, which includes the pharynx. The sequence of gross regional specification have never been analysed in planarians using molecular regional markers or by direct disruption of the regeneration process. Exogenous retinoic acid administration on regenerating planarians disrupts anterior, but not posterior regeneration. The period of maximum sensitivity to exogenous retinoic acid is one day after amputation, during which time the determination of the head has been reported to occur. The data obtained allow us to suggest that gross regional specification during planarian regeneration is disto-proximal, from the regenerative blastema to the old stump, and thus takes place by intercalation of the central region between the anterior and posterior ones.