Developing amphioxus as a chordate regeneration model

Amphioxus, like some vertebrates such as salamanders, is endowedwith impressive regenerative ability even as an adult. The species we use in the lab, Branchiostoma lanceolatum,  can regenerate all major axial structures of the tail, including segmented musculature, notochord and nerve cord. Amphioxus may therefore be an invaluable system for understanding the evolution and cellular basis of regeneration in chordates. While many resources are available to do research in cephalochordates, including several fully sequenced genomes and transcriptomic data, as well as techniques like microinjection, in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry, it is currently not a tractable genetic system for post-embryonic research. One of the lab’s main goals is to develop the functional tools necessary to study regeneration in amphioxus adults. Success in this endeavour will have a major impact on our ability to perform comparative analyses with other systems, and can inform future research in more complex vertebrate systems by providing an ethically acceptable invertebrate model.

Amphioxus nerve cord

The amphioxus adult nerve cord, shown in cross section in orange, shares both structural and molecular similarities with the mammalian spinal cord, with one exception: it regenerates extremely well (Photo: Ildiko Somorjai)