Systemic bud induction and retinoic acid signaling underlie whole body regeneration in the urochordate Botrylloides leachi

Yuval Rinkevich, Guy Paz, Baruch Rinkevich, Ram Reshef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regeneration in adult chordates is confined to a few model cases and terminates in restoration of restricted tissues and organs. Here, we study the unique phenomenon of whole body regeneration (WBR) in the colonial urochordate Botrylloides leachi in which an entire adult zooid is restored from a miniscule blood vessel fragment. In contrast to all other documented cases, regeneration is induced systemically in blood vessels. Multiple buds appear simultaneously in newly established regeneration niches within vasculature fragments, stemming from composites of pluripotent blood cells and terminating in one functional zooid. We found that retinoic acid (RA) regulates diverse developmental aspects in WBR. The homologue of the RA receptor and a retinaldehyde dehydrogenase-related gene were expressed specifically in blood cells within regeneration niches and throughout bud development. The addition of RA inhibitors as well as RNA interference knockdown experiments resulted in WBR arrest and bud malformations. The administration of all-trans RA to blood vessel fragments resulted in doubly accelerated regeneration and multibud formation, leading to restored colonies with multiple zooids. The Botrylloides system differs from known regeneration model systems by several fundamental criteria, including epimorphosis without the formation of blastema and the induction of a "multifocal regeneration niche" system. This is also to our knowledge the first documented case of WBR from circulating blood cells that restores not only the soma, but also the germ line. This unique Botrylloides WBR process could serve as a new in vivo model system for regeneration, suggesting that RA signaling may have had ancestral roles in body restoration events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)900-913
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Neuroscience


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