The interstitial cells of hydra comprise a stem cell population, producing at least two classes of terminally differentiated cell types, nerve cells and nematocytes. Exposure to hydroxyurea (HU) results in selective depletion of interstitial cells from the tissue. The surviving cells subsequently recovered to normal levels, and the mechanisms involved in this repopulation were examined. Hydra were treated for varying times with HU such that interstitial cell numbers were reduced to 7 or 35% of normal. Subsequent growth of the epithelial and interstitial cell populations in these animals was monitored. The results indicate that the growth rates of these two cell types were only slightly different from untreated controls during the 4 weeks after HU exposure, implying that repopulation should not have occurred. However, recovery of the interstitial cell population was observed. Further analysis revealed that the interstitial cells in HU animals, unlike normal hydra, were not uniformly distributed in the body column, and were especially reduced in the budding region. In normal animals a constant fraction of the interstitial and epithelial cells are lost into buds. However, as a consequence of this nonuniform distribution a smaller fraction of the interstitial cells are displaced into HU buds, thereby retaining a higher proportion in the adult tissue. Calculations indicate that this mechanism of increased retention is of sufficient magnitude to account for 40-60% of the observed recovery after HU treatment. © 1985.
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