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Free-living flatworms, such as the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea, are extensively used as model organisms to study stem cells and regeneration. The majority of flatworm studies so far focused on broadly conserved genes. However, investigating what makes these animals different is equally informative for understanding its biology and might have biomedical value. We re-analyzed the neoblast and germline transcriptional signatures of the flatworm M. lignano using an improved transcriptome assembly and show that germline-enriched genes have a high fraction of flatworm-specific genes. We further identified the Mlig-sperm1 gene as a member of a novel gene family conserved only in free-living flatworms and essential for producing healthy spermatozoa. In addition, we established a whole-animal electron microscopy atlas (nanotomy) to visualize the ultrastructure of the testes in wild type worms, but also as a reference platform for different ultrastructural studies in M. lignano. This work demonstrates that investigation of flatworm-specific genes is crucial for understanding flatworm biology and establishes a basis for such future research in M. lignano.

Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's10
TijdschriftScientific Reports
Nummer van het tijdschrift1
StatusPublished - 16-feb.-2018

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