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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Molecular markers to characterize the hermaphroditic reproductive system of the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea

Tracy Chong1, Joel M Stary2, Yuying Wang14 and Phillip A Newmark123*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 601 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA

2 Neuroscience Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 505 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA

3 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 601 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA

4 Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado 80045, USA

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BMC Developmental Biology 2011, 11:69  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-11-69

Published: 10 November 2011



The freshwater planarian Schmidtea mediterranea exhibits two distinct reproductive modes. Individuals of the sexual strain are cross-fertilizing hermaphrodites with reproductive organs that develop post-embryonically. By contrast, individuals of the asexual strain reproduce exclusively by transverse fission and fail to develop reproductive organs. These different reproductive strains are associated with distinct karyotypes, making S. mediterranea a useful model for studying germline development and sexual differentiation.


To identify genes expressed differentially between these strains, we performed microarray analyses and identified >800 genes that were upregulated in the sexual planarian. From these, we characterized 24 genes by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), revealing their expression in male germ cells or accessory reproductive organs. To identify additional markers of the planarian reproductive system, we also used immuno- and fluorescent lectin staining, identifying several antibodies and lectins that labeled structures associated with reproductive organs.


Collectively, these cell-type specific markers will enable future efforts to characterize genes that are important for reproductive development in the planarian.