Hydra continuously differentiates a sophisticated nervous system made of mechanosensory cells (nematocytes) and sensory-motor and ganglionic neurons from interstitial stem cells. However, this dynamic adult neurogenesis is dispensable for morphogenesis. Indeed animals depleted of their interstitial stem cells and interstitial progenitors lose their active behaviours but maintain their developmental fitness, and regenerate and bud when force-fed. To characterize the impact of the loss of neurogenesis in Hydra, we first performed transcriptomic profiling at five positions along the body axis. We found neurogenic genes predominantly expressed along the central body column, which contains stem cells and progenitors, and neurotransmission genes predominantly expressed at the extremities, where the nervous system is dense. Next, we performed transcriptomics on animals depleted of their interstitial cells by hydroxyurea, colchicine or heat-shock treatment. By crossing these results with cell-type-specific transcriptomics, we identified epithelial genes up-regulated upon loss of neurogenesis: transcription factors (Dlx, Dlx1, DMBX1/Manacle, Ets1, Gli3, KLF11, LMX1A, ZNF436, Shox1), epitheliopeptides (Arminins, PW peptide), neurosignalling components (CAMK1D, DDCl2, Inx1), ligand-ion channel receptors (CHRNA1, NaC7), G-Protein Coupled Receptors and FMRFRL. Hence epitheliomuscular cells seemingly enhance their sensing ability when neurogenesis is compromised. This unsuspected plasticity might reflect the extended multifunctionality of epithelial-like cells in early eumetazoan evolution.
Hox genes are major regulators of embryonic development. One of their most conserved functions is to coordinate the formation of specific body structures along the anterior-posterior (AP) axis in Bilateria. This architectural role was at the basis of several morphological innovations across bilaterian evolution. In this review, we traced the origin of the Hox patterning system by considering the partnership with PBC and Meis proteins. PBC and Meis belong to the TALE-class of homeodomain-containing transcription factors and act as generic cofactors of Hox proteins for AP axis patterning in Bilateria. Recent data indicate that Hox proteins acquired the ability to interact with their TALE partners in the last common ancestor of Bilateria and Cnidaria. These interactions relied initially on a short peptide motif called hexapeptide (HX), which is present in Hox and non-Hox protein families. Remarkably, Hox proteins can also recruit the TALE cofactors by using specific PBC Interaction Motifs (SPIMs). We describe how a functional Hox/TALE patterning system emerged in eumetazoans through the acquisition of SPIMs. We anticipate that interaction flexibility could be found in other patterning systems, being at the heart of the astonishing morphological diversity observed in the animal kingdom.
Epithelial sheets, a synapomorphy of all metazoans but porifers, are present as 2 layers in cnidarians, ectoderm and endoderm, joined at their basal side by an extra-cellular matrix named mesoglea. In the Hydra polyp, epithelial cells of the body column are unipotent stem cells that continuously self-renew and concomitantly express their epitheliomuscular features. These multifunctional contractile cells maintain homeostasis by providing a protective physical barrier, by digesting nutrients, by selecting a stable microbiota, and by rapidly closing wounds. In addition, epithelial cells are highly plastic, supporting the adaptation of Hydra to physiological and environmental changes, such as long starvation periods where survival relies on a highly dynamic autophagy flux. Epithelial cells also play key roles in developmental processes as evidenced by the organizer activity they develop to promote budding and regeneration. We propose here an integrative view of the homeostatic and developmental aspects of epithelial plasticity in Hydra.
Cnidarian Hydra polyps escape senescence, most likely due to the robust activity of their three stem cell populations. These stem cells continuously self-renew in the body column and differentiate at the extremities following a tightly coordinated spatial pattern. Paul Brien showed in 1953 that in one particular species, Hydra oligactis, cold-dependent sexual differentiation leads to rapid aging and death. Here, we review the features of this inducible aging phenotype. These cellular alterations, detected several weeks after aging was induced, are characterized by a decreasing density of somatic interstitial cell derivatives, a disorganization of the apical nervous system, and a disorganization of myofibers of the epithelial cells. Consequently, tissue replacement required to maintain homeostasis, feeding behavior, and contractility of the animal are dramatically affected. Interestingly, this aging phenotype is not observed in all H. oligactis strains, thus providing a powerful experimental model for investigations of the genetic control of aging. Given the presence in the cnidarian genome of a large number of human orthologs that have been lost in ecdysozoans, such approaches might help uncover novel regulators of aging in vertebrates.
The impact of injury-induced immune responses on animal regenerative processes is highly variable, positive or negative depending on the context. This likely reflects the complexity of the innate immune system that behaves as a sentinel in the transition from injury to regeneration. Early-branching invertebrates with high regenerative potential as Hydra provide a unique framework to dissect how injury-induced immune responses impact regeneration. A series of early cellular events likely require an efficient immune response after amputation, as antimicrobial defence, epithelial cell stretching for wound closure, migration of interstitial progenitors toward the wound, cell death, phagocytosis of cell debris, or reconstruction of the extracellular matrix. The analysis of the injury-induced transcriptomic modulations of 2636 genes annotated as immune genes in Hydra identified 43 genes showing an immediate/early pulse regulation in all regenerative contexts examined. These regulations point to an enhanced cytoprotection via ROS signaling (Nrf, C/EBP, p62/SQSMT1-l2), TNFR and TLR signaling (TNFR16-like, TRAF2l, TRAF5l, jun, fos-related, SIK2, ATF1/CREB, LRRC28, LRRC40, LRRK2), proteasomal activity (p62/SQSMT1-l1, Ced6/Gulf, NEDD8-conjugating enzyme Ubc12), stress proteins (CRYAB1, CRYAB2, HSP16.2, DnaJB9, HSP90a1), all potentially regulating NF-kappaB activity. Other genes encoding immune-annotated proteins such as NPYR4, GTPases, Swap70, the antiproliferative BTG1, enzymes involved in lipid metabolism (5-lipoxygenase, ACSF4), secreted clotting factors, secreted peptidases are also pulse regulated upon bisection. By contrast, metalloproteinases and antimicrobial peptide genes largely follow a context-dependent regulation, whereas the protease inhibitor alpha2macroglobulin gene exhibits a sustained up-regulation. Hence a complex immune response to injury is linked to wound healing and regeneration in Hydra.
Hydra is a freshwater hydrozoan polyp that constantly renews its two tissue layers thanks to three distinct stem cell populations that cannot replace each other, epithelial ectodermal, epithelial endodermal, and multipotent interstitial. These adult stem cells, located in the central body column, exhibit different cycling paces, slow for the epithelial, fast for the interstitial. To monitor the changes in cell cycling in Hydra, we established a fast and efficient flow cytometry procedure, which we validated by confirming previous findings, as the Nocodazole-induced reversible arrest of cell cycling in G2/M, and the mitogenic signal provided by feeding. Then to dissect the cycling and differentiation behaviors of the interstitial stem cells, we used the AEP_cnnos1 and AEP_Icy1 transgenic lines that constitutively express GFP in this lineage. For the epithelial lineages we used the sf-1 strain that rapidly eliminates the fast cycling cells upon heat-shock and progressively becomes epithelial. This study evidences similar cycling patterns for the interstitial and epithelial stem cells, which all alternate between the G2 and S-phases traversing a minimal G1-phase. We also found interstitial progenitors with a shorter G2 that pause in G1/G0. At the animal extremities, most cells no longer cycle, the epithelial cells terminally differentiate in G2 and the interstitial progenitors in G1/G0. At the apical pole ~80% cells are post-mitotic differentiated cells, reflecting the higher density of neurons and nematocytes in this region. We discuss how the robust G2 pausing of stem cells, maintained over weeks of starvation, may contribute to regeneration.
Recent studies in Drosophila, Hydra, planarians, zebrafish, mice, indicate that cell death can open paths to regeneration in adult animals. Indeed injury can induce cell death, itself triggering regeneration following an immediate instructive mechanism, whereby the dying cells release signals that induce cellular responses over short and/or long-range distances. Cell death can also provoke a sustained derepressing response through the elimination of cells that suppress regeneration in homeostatic conditions. Whether common properties support what we name "regenerative cell death," is currently unclear. As key parameters, we review here the injury proapoptotic signals, the signals released by the dying cells, the cellular responses, and their respective timing. ROS appears as a common signal triggering cell death through MAPK and/or JNK pathway activation. But the modes of ROS production vary, from a brief pulse upon wounding, to repeated waves as observed in the zebrafish fin where ROS supports two peaks of cell death. Indeed regenerative cell death can be restricted to the injury phase, as in Hydra, Drosophila, or biphasic, immediate, and delayed, as in planarians and zebrafish. The dying cells release in a caspase-dependent manner a variety of signaling molecules, cytokines, growth factors, but also prostaglandins or ATP as recorded in Drosophila, Hydra, mice, and zebrafish, respectively. Interestingly, the ROS-producing cells often resist to cell death, implying a complex paracrine mode of signaling to launch regeneration, involving ROS-producing cells, ROS-sensing cells that release signaling molecules upon caspase activation, and effector cells that respond to these signals by proliferating, migrating, and/or differentiating.
Hydra freshwater polyps have a remarkable ability to regenerate after bisection or even after dissociation, and thus offer a unique model system to investigate the cellular and molecular basis of eumetazoan regeneration. From a single cut along the body column two different types of regeneration arise: foot regeneration from the apical part and head regeneration from the basal part. The high proportion of stem cells in the Hydra body column supports these fast and efficient processes. Grafting experiments proved that the gastric tissue in the head‐regenerating tip rapidly develops a de novo organising activity, as evidenced by the induction of an ectopic axis when transplanted onto a host. The molecular mechanisms involved in this transformation rely on the immediate activation of the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway and the subsequent activation of the canonical Wnt3 pathway. This early phase is followed by a patterning phase, when head regeneration requires de novo neurogenesis.
Phenotypic traits derive from the selective recruitment of genetic materials over macroevolutionary times, and protein-coding genes constitute an essential component of these materials. We took advantage of the recent production of genomic scale data from sponges and cnidarians, sister groups from eumetazoans and bilaterians respectively, to date the emergence of human proteins and to infer the timing of acquisition of novel traits through metazoan evolution. Comparing the proteomes of 23 eukaryotes, we find that 33% human proteins have an ortholog in non-metazoan species. This urmetazoan proteome associates with 43% of all annotated human biological processes. Subsequently four major waves of innovations can be inferred in the last common ancestors of eumetazoans, bilaterians, euteleosts and hominidae, largely specific to each epoch, whereas early branching deuterostome and chordate phyla show very few innovations. Interestingly, groups of proteins that act together in their modern human functions often originated concomitantly, although the corresponding human phenotypes frequently emerged later. For example, the three cnidarians Acropora, Nematostella and Hydra express a highly similar protein inventory and their protein innovations can be affiliated either to traits shared by all eumetazoans (gut differentiation, neurogenesis); or to bilaterian traits present in only some cnidarians (eyes, striated muscle); or to traits not identified yet in this phylum (mesodermal layer, endocrine glands). The variable correspondence between phenotypes predicted from protein enrichments and observed phenotypes suggests that a parallel mechanism repeatedly produce similar phenotypes thanks to novel regulatory events that independently tie pre-existing conserved genetic modules.
BACKGROUND: Evolutionary studies benefit from deep sequencing technologies that generate genomic and transcriptomic sequences from a variety of organisms. Genome sequencing and RNAseq have complementary strengths. In this study, we present the assembly of the most complete Hydra transcriptome to date along with a comparative analysis of the specific features of RNAseq and genome-predicted transcriptomes currently available in the freshwater hydrozoan Hydra vulgaris. RESULTS: To produce an accurate and extensive Hydra transcriptome, we combined Illumina and 454 Titanium reads, giving the primacy to Illumina over 454 reads to correct homopolymer errors. This strategy yielded an RNAseq transcriptome that contains 48'909 unique sequences including splice variants, representing approximately 24'450 distinct genes. Comparative analysis to the available genome-predicted transcriptomes identified 10'597 novel Hydra transcripts that encode 529 evolutionarily-conserved proteins. The annotation of 170 human orthologs points to critical functions in protein biosynthesis, FGF and TOR signaling, vesicle transport, immunity, cell cycle regulation, cell death, mitochondrial metabolism, transcription and chromatin regulation. However, a majority of these novel transcripts encodes short ORFs, at least 767 of them corresponding to pseudogenes. This RNAseq transcriptome also lacks 11'270 predicted transcripts that correspond either to silent genes or to genes expressed below the detection level of this study. CONCLUSIONS: We established a simple and powerful strategy to combine Illumina and 454 reads and we produced, with genome assistance, an extensive and accurate Hydra transcriptome. The comparative analysis of the RNAseq transcriptome with genome-predicted transcriptomes lead to the identification of large populations of novel as well as missing transcripts that might reflect Hydra-specific evolutionary events.
The freshwater Hydra polyp provides a unique model system to decipher the mechanisms underlying adult regeneration. Indeed, a single cut initiates two distinct regenerative processes, foot regeneration on one side and head regeneration on the other side, the latter relying on the rapid formation of a local head organizer. Two aspects are discussed here: the asymmetric cellular remodeling induced by mid-gastric bisection and the signaling events that trigger head organizer formation. In head-regenerating tips (but not in foot ones), a wave of cell death takes place immediately, leading the apoptotic cells to transiently release Wnt3 and activate the beta-catenin pathway in the neighboring cycling cells to push them through mitosis. This process, which mimics the apoptosis-induced compensatory proliferation process deciphered in Drosophila larvae regenerating their discs, likely corresponds to an evolutionarily conserved mechanism, also at work in Xenopus tadpoles regenerating their tail or mice regenerating their skin or liver. How is this process generated in Hydra? Several studies pointed to the necessary activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1-2 and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways during early head regeneration. Indeed inhibition of ERK 1-2 or knockdown of RSK, cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), and CREB-binding protein (CBP) prevent injury-induced apoptosis and head regeneration. The current scenario involves an asymmetric activation of the MAPK/CREB pathway to trigger injury-induced apoptosis in the interstitial cells and in the epithelial cells a CREB/CBP-dependent transcriptional activation of early genes essential for head-organizing activity as wnt3, HyBra1, and prdl-a. The question now is how bisection in the rather uniform central region of the polyp can generate this immediately asymmetric signaling.