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 β-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.
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