Transcriptomic Changes During Regeneration of the Central Nervous System in an Echinoderm.
Mashanov, Vladimir S.
Zueva, Olga R.
García-Arrarás, José E.
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Background: Echinoderms are emerging as important models in regenerative biology. Significant amount of data are available on cellular mechanisms of post-traumatic repair in these animals, whereas studies of gene expression are rare. In this study, we employ high-throughput sequencing to analyze the transcriptome of the normal and regenerating radial nerve cord (a homolog of the chordate neural tube), in the sea cucumber. Holothuria glaberrima .Results: Our de novo assembly yielded 70,173 contigs, of which 24,324 showed significant similarity to known protein-coding sequences. Expression profiling revealed large-scale changes in gene expression (4,023 and 3,257 up-regulated and down-regulated transcripts, respectively) associated with regeneration. Functional analysis of sets of differentially expressed genes suggested that among the most extensively over-represented pathways were those involved in the extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling and ECM-cell interactions, indicating a key role of the ECM in regeneration. We also searched the sea cucumber transcriptome for homologs of factors known to be involved in acquisition and/or control of pluripotency. We identified eleven genes that were expressed both in the normal and regenerating tissues. Of these, only Myc was present at significantly higher levels in regeneration, whereas the expression of Bmi-1 was significantly reduced. We also sought to get insight into which transcription factors may operate at the top of the regulatory hierarchy to control gene expression in regeneration. Our analysis yielded eleven putative transcription factors, which constitute good candidates for further functional studies. The identified candidate transcription factors included not only known regeneration-related genes, but also factors not previously implicated as regulators of post-traumatic tissue regrowth. Functional annotation also suggested that one of the possible adaptations contributing to fast and efficient neural regeneration in echinoderms may be related to suppression of excitotoxicity.Conclusions: Our transcriptomic analysis corroborates existing data on cellular mechanisms implicated in regeneration in sea cucumbers. More importantly, however, it also illuminates new aspects of echinoderm regeneration, which have been scarcely studied or overlooked altogether. The most significant outcome of the present work is that it lays out a roadmap for future studies of regulatory mechanisms by providing a list of key candidate genes for functional analysis.