Expression of stem cell factors in the adult sea cucumber digestive tube

Vladimir Mashanov, Universidad de Puerto Rico
Olga Zueva, Universidad de Puerto Rico
Daria Mashanova, Mandarin High School
José E. García-Arrarás, Universidad de Puerto Rico


Homeostatic cell turnover has been extensively characterized in mammals. In their adult tissues, lost or aging differentiated cells are replenished by a self-renewing cohort of stem cells. The stem cells have been particularly well studied in the intestine and are clearly identified by the expression of marker genes including Lgr5 and Bmi1. It is, however, unknown if the established principles of tissue renewal learned from mammals would be operating in non-mammalian systems. Here, we study homeostatic cell turnover in the sea cucumber digestive tube, the organ with high tissue plasticity even in adult animals. Both the luminal epithelium and mesothelium express orthologs of mammalian Lgr5 and Bmi1. However, unlike in mammals, there is no segregation of these positively labeled cells to specific regions in the luminal epithelium, where most of the cell proliferation would take place. In the mesothelium, the cells expressing the stem cell markers are tentatively identified as peritoneocytes. There are significant differences among the five anatomical gut regions in cell renewal dynamics and stem factor expression. The cloaca differs from the rest of the digestive tube as the region with the highest expression of the Lgr5 ortholog, lowest level of Bmi1 and the longest retention of BrdU-labeled cells.