Urochordate whole body regeneration inaugurates a diverse innate immune signaling profile

Yuval Rinkevich, Jacob Douek, Omer Haber, Baruch Rinkevich, Ram Reshef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The phenomenon of whole body regeneration (WBR) from minute soma fragments is a rare event in chordates, confined to the subfamily of botryllid ascidians and is poorly understood on the cellular and molecular levels. We assembled a list of 1326 ESTs from subtracted mRNA, at early stages of Botrylloides leachi WBR, and classified them into functional categories. Sixty-seven (15%) ESTs with roles in innate immunity signaling were classified into a broad functional group, a result supported by domain search and RT-PCR reactions. Gene ontology analysis for human homologous to the immune gene category, identified 22 significant entries, of which "peptidase activity" and "protease inhibitor activity", stood out as functioning during WBR. Analyzing expressions of serine protease Bl-TrSP, a representative candidate gene from the "peptidase activity" subgroup, revealed low transcript levels in naïve vasculature with upregulated expression during WBR. This was confirmed by in situ hybridization that further elucidated staining restricted to a circulating population of macrophage cells. Furthermore, Bl-TrSP was localized in regeneration niches within vasculature, in regenerating buds, and in buds, during blastogenesis. Functional inhibition of serine protease activity disrupts early remodeling processes of the vasculature microenvironment and hinders WBR. Comparison of genome-wide transcription of WBR with five other developmental processes in ascidians (including metamorphosis, budding and blastogenesis), revealed a broad conservation of immune signaling expressions, suggesting a ubiquitous route of harnessing immune-related genes within a broader range of tunicate developmental context. This, in turn, may have enabled the high diversity of life history traits represented by urochordate ascidians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-146
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Vered Caspi from the Bioinformatics Support Unit at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev for her computer work, Eran Eden from the Technion for his assistance with the GO analysis and, Elizabeth Moiseeva for her excellent histological assistance. This study was supported by a grant from the Marine Genomics Europe Network of Excellence (EDD Node; BR and RR), the United States-Israel Bi-National Science Foundation (2003-010; BR) and by the Israel Academy of Science (550-06; BR).


  • Ascidians
  • Botrylloides
  • Development
  • EST library
  • Innate immunity
  • Regeneration
  • Serine protease
  • Urochordates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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