A proliferation gradient between proximal and msxb-expressing distal blastema directs zebrafish fin regeneration

Alex Nechiporuk, Mark T. Keating

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Previous studies of zebrafish fin regeneration led to the notion that the regeneration blastema is a homogeneous population of proliferating cells. Here, we show that the blastema consists of two components with markedly distinct proliferation properties. During early blastema formation, proliferating cells are evenly distributed. At the onset of regenerative outgrowth, however, blastemal cells are partitioned into two domains. Proximal blastemal cells proliferate at a high rate, shifting from a median G2 of more than 6 hours to approximately 1 hour. By contrast, the most distal blastemal cells do not proliferate. There is a gradient of proliferation between these extremes. Using bromodeoxyuridine incorporation and anti-phosphohistone H3 labeling, we find a 50-fold difference in proliferation across the gradient that extends approximately 50 μm, or ten cell diameters. We show that during early regeneration, proliferating blastemal cells express msxb, a homeodomain transcriptional repressor. While msxb is widely expressed among proliferating cells during blastema formation, its expression becomes restricted to a small number of non-proliferating, distal blastemal cells during regenerative outworth. Bromodeoxyuridine pulse-chase experiments show that distal and proximal blastemal cells are formed from proliferating, msxb-positive blastemal cells, not from preexisting slow-cycling cells. These data support the idea that blastema formation results form dedifferentiation of intraray mesenchymal cells. Based on these findings, we propose a new model of zebrafish fin regeneration in which the function of non-proliferating, msxb-expressing, distal blastemal cells is to specify the boundary of proliferation and provide direction for regenerative outgrowth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2607-2617
Number of pages11
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Blastema
  • BrdU incorporation
  • Cell cycle
  • Proliferation
  • Zebrafish regeneration
  • msxb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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