Slow-cycling stem cells in hydra contribute to head regeneration

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Adult stem cells face the challenge of maintaining tissue homeostasis by self-renewal while maintaining their proliferation potential over the lifetime of an organism. Continuous proliferation can cause genotoxic/metabolic stress that can compromise the genomic integrity of stem cells. To prevent stem cell exhaustion, highly proliferative adult tissues maintain a pool of quiescent stem cells that divide only in response to injury and thus remain protected from genotoxic stress. Hydra is a remarkable organism with highly proliferative stem cells and ability to regenerate at whole animal level. Intriguingly, hydra does not display consequences of high proliferation, such as senescence or tumour formation. In this study, we investigate if hydra harbours a pool of slow-cycling stem cells that could help prevent undesirable consequences of continuous proliferation. Hydra were pulsed with the thymidine analogue 5-ethynyl-29-deoxyuridine (EdU) and then chased in the absence of EdU to monitor the presence of EdU-retaining cells. A significant number of undifferentiated cells of all three lineages in hydra retained EdU for about 8-10 cell cycles, indicating that these cells did not enter cell cycle. These label-retaining cells were resistant to hydroxyurea treatment and were predominantly in the G2 phase of cell cycle. Most significantly, similar to mammalian quiescent stem cells, these cells rapidly entered cell division during head regeneration. This study shows for the first time that, contrary to current beliefs, cells in hydra display heterogeneity in their cell cycle potential and the slow-cycling cells in this population enter cell cycle during head regeneration. These results suggest an early evolution of slow-cycling stem cells in multicellular animals.




Govindasamy, N., Murthy, S., & Ghanekar, Y. (2014). Slow-cycling stem cells in hydra contribute to head regeneration. Biology Open, 3(12), 1236–1244.

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