The regenerative nidi of the locust midgut as a model to study epithelial cell differentiation from stem cells
Stem cell
Locusta migratoria
Epithelial regeneration
Issue Date: 
Company of Biologists
Illa-Bochaca I, Montuenga LM. The regenerative nidi of the locust midgut as a model to study epithelial cell differentiation from stem cells. J Exp Biol 2006 Jun;209(Pt 11):2215-2223.
A better knowledge of the regulatory mechanisms involved in stem cell proliferation and/or differentiation could reveal new methods for the treatment of some diseases. Most previous studies in the field of stem cell biology have been carried out on cultured isolated cells. In the case of adult tissue stem cells, mesenchymal bone marrow derived cells have been most widely studied, while the undifferentiated stem cells present in the epithelial tissues are less known. In order to advance further our understanding of epithelial tissue stem cells, new in vivo models are required. The present study focuses on the dynamics of a new and simple model of intestinal epithelial regeneration found in the midgut of the migratory locust, Locusta migratoria (Linnaeus 1758). The locust midgut consists of three cell types: columnar cells, endocrine cells and undifferentiated regenerative clustered cells. The undifferentiated epithelial midgut cells give rise to two other cell types and are located in a nest of regenerative cells known as regenerative niche. We have performed single and continuous bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) administration experiments to study regeneration niches and their cellular dynamics. Immunocytochemistry and immunofluorescence techniques were used to detect the incorporation of BrdU into regenerative niches and the presence of FMRFamide-like immunoreactivity, as a marker for endocrine cell differentiation. Some isolated label retaining cells (LRC) were observed at the niche base 10-15 days after the final BrdU administration. We propose that these cells are the stem cells of this epithelial tissue. We also calculated the length of the cell cycle phases for a subpopulation of transit amplifying cells within the regenerative niche: G1, 2.5+/-0.5 h; S, 5.5+/-0.5 h; G2, 0.75+/-0.25 h; M, 2.5+/-0.5 h. These amplifying cells will give rise to the columnar epithelial non-endocrine lineage. The differentiation of an endocrine cell from a niche stem cell occurs less frequently and thus leads to a lower proportion of endocrine cells as compared with epithelial columnar digestive cells (up to three endocrine cells per niche). Endocrine cell commitment seems to occur very early in the differentiation process within the niche, as double-labelled BrdU and FMRF endocrine cells have never been found. The only exception is the endocrine cells located in the ampullar region of the midgut, some of which show double immunostaining after long-term chronic BrdU injection. In summary, we have characterized a new and simple animal model of epithelial stem cell regeneration that may be useful for understanding the complex biological process that drives tissue renewal from undifferentiated and uncommitted progenitor cells.

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