The formation of a blastema during regeneration of an axolotl limb involves important changes in the behavior and function of cells at the site of injury. One of the earliest events is the formation of the wound epithelium and subsequently the apical epidermal cap, which involves in vivo dedifferentiation that is controlled by signaling from the nerve. We have investigated the role of epigenetic modifications to the genome as a possible mechanism for regulating changes in gene expression patterns of keratinocytes of the wound and blastema epithelium that are involved in regeneration. We report a modulation of the expression DNMT3a, a de novo DNA methyltransferase, within the first 72 hours post injury that is dependent on nerve signaling. Treatment of skin wounds on the upper forelimb with decitabine, a DNA methyltransferase inhibitor, induced changes in gene expression and cellular behavior associated with a regenerative response. Furthermore, decitabine-treated wounds were able to participate in regeneration while untreated wounds inhibited a regenerative response. Elucidation of the specific epigenetic modifications that mediate cellular dedifferentiation likely will lead to insights for initiating a regenerative response in organisms that lack this ability.
Aguilar, C., & Gardiner, D. M. (2015). DNA methylation dynamics regulate the formation of a regenerative wound epithelium during axolotl limb regeneration. PLoS ONE, 10(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0134791