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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A novel amniote model of epimorphic regeneration: the leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius

Katherine E McLean12 and Matthew K Vickaryous1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East, Guelph, ON, Canada

2 Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 1 King's College Circle, Toronto, ON, Canada

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BMC Developmental Biology 2011, 11:50  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-11-50

Published: 16 August 2011

Abstract

Background

Epimorphic regeneration results in the restoration of lost tissues and structures from an aggregation of proliferating cells known as a blastema. Among amniotes the most striking example of epimorphic regeneration comes from tail regenerating lizards. Although tail regeneration is often studied in the context of ecological costs and benefits, details of the sequence of tissue-level events are lacking. Here we investigate the anatomical and histological events that characterize tail regeneration in the leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius.

Results

Tail structure and tissue composition were examined at multiple days following tail loss, revealing a conserved pattern of regeneration. Removal of the tail results in a consistent series of morphological and histological events. Tail loss is followed by a latent period of wound healing with no visible signs of regenerative outgrowth. During this latent period basal cells of the epidermis proliferate and gradually cover the wound. An additional aggregation of proliferating cells accumulates adjacent to the distal tip of the severed spinal cord marking the first appearance of the blastema. Continued growth of the blastema is matched by the initiation of angiogenesis, followed by the re-development of peripheral axons and the ependymal tube of the spinal cord. Skeletal tissue differentiation, corresponding with the expression of Sox9, and muscle re-development are delayed until tail outgrowth is well underway.

Conclusions

We demonstrate that tail regeneration in lizards involves a highly conserved sequence of events permitting the establishment of a staging table. We show that tail loss is followed by a latent period of scar-free healing of the wound site, and that regeneration is blastema-mediated. We conclude that the major events of epimorphic regeneration are highly conserved across vertebrates and that a comparative approach is an invaluable biomedical tool for ongoing regenerative research.