Common cellular events occur during wound healing and organ regeneration in the sea cucumber Holothuria glaberrima

José E. San Miguel-Ruiz, José E. García-Arrarás

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73 Scopus citations


Background. All animals possess some type of tissue repair mechanism. In some species, the capacity to repair tissues is limited to the healing of wounds. Other species, such as echinoderms, posses a striking repair capability that can include the replacement of entire organs. It has been reported that some mechanisms, namely extracellular matrix remodeling, appear to occur in most repair processes. However, it remains unclear to what extent the process of organ regeneration, particularly in animals where loss and regeneration of complex structures is a programmed natural event, is similar to wound healing. We have now used the sea cucumber Holothuria glaberrima to address this question. Results. Animals were lesioned by making a 3-5 mm transverse incision between one of the longitudinal muscle pairs along the bodywall. Lesioned tissues included muscle, nerve, water canal and dermis. Animals were allowed to heal for up to four weeks (2, 6, 12, 20, and 28 days post-injury) before sacrificed. Tissues were sectioned in a cryostat and changes in cellular and tissue elements during repair were evaluated using classical dyes, immmuohistochemistry and phalloidin labeling. In addition, the temporal and spatial distribution of cell proliferation in the animals was assayed using BrdU incorporation. We found that cellular events associated with wound healing in H. glaberrima correspond to those previously shown to occur during intestinal regeneration. These include: (1) an increase in the number of spherule-containing cells, (2) remodeling of the extracellular matrix, (3) formation of spindle-like structures that signal dedifferentiation of muscle cells in the area flanking the lesion site and (4) intense cellular division occurring mainly in the coelomic epithelium after the first week of regeneration. Conclusion. Our data indicate that H. glaberrima employs analogous cellular mechanisms during wound healing and organ regeneration. Thus, it is possible that regenerative limitations in some organisms are due either to the absence of particular mechanisms associated with repair or the inability of activating the repair process in some tissues or stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115
JournalBMC Developmental Biology
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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