Using the Developmental Eye Regrowth System to Distinguish the Role of Developmental Versus Regenerative Mechanisms

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Frontiers in Physiology





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A longstanding challenge in regeneration biology is to understand the role of developmental mechanisms in restoring lost or damaged tissues and organs. As these body structures were built during embryogenesis, it is not surprising that a number of developmental mechanisms are also active during regeneration. However, it remains unclear whether developmental mechanisms act similarly or differently during regeneration as compared to development. Since regeneration is studied in the context of mature, differentiated tissues, it is difficult to evaluate comparative studies with developmental processes due to the latter’s highly proliferative environment. We have taken a more direct approach to study regeneration in a developmental context (regrowth). Xenopus laevis, the African clawed frog, is a well-established model for both embryology and regeneration studies, especially for the eye. Xenopus eye development is well-defined. Xenopus is also an established model for retinal and lens regeneration studies. Previously, we demonstrated that Xenopus tailbud embryo can successfully regrow a functional eye that is morphologically indistinguishable from an age-matched control eye. In this study, we assessed the temporal regulation of retinal differentiation and patterning restoration during eye regrowth. Our findings showed that during regrowth, cellular patterning and retinal layer formation was delayed by approximately 1 day but was restored by 3 days when compared to eye development. An assessment of the differentiation of ganglion cells, photoreceptor cells, and Müller glia indicated that the retinal birth order generated during regrowth was consistent with that observed for eye development. Thus, retina differentiation and patterning during regrowth is similar to endogenous eye development. We used this eye regrowth model to assess the role of known mechanisms in development versus regrowth. Loss-of-function studies showed that Pax6 was required for both eye development and regrowth whereas apoptosis was only required for regrowth. Together, these results revealed that the mechanisms required for both development and regrowth can be distinguished from regrowth-specific ones. Our study highlights this developmental model of eye regrowth as a robust platform to systematically and efficiently define the molecular mechanisms that are required for regeneration versus development.


Eye; Apoptosis; Retina; Xenopus; Development; Stem cells; Regrowth; Neural regeneration and repair


Cell and Developmental Biology | Developmental Biology | Life Sciences



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