Indexed on: 11 Mar '15Published on: 11 Mar '15Published in: Current Biology
Darwinian-like cell selection has been studied during development and cancer [1-11]. Cell selection is often mediated by direct intercellular comparison of cell fitness, using "fitness fingerprints" [12-14]. In Drosophila, cells compare their fitness via several isoforms of the transmembrane protein Flower [12, 13]. Here, we studied the role of intercellular fitness comparisons during regeneration. Regeneration-competent organisms are traditionally injured by amputation [15, 16], whereas in clinically relevant injuries such as local ischemia or traumatic injury, damaged tissue remains within the organ [17-19]. We reasoned that "Darwinian" interactions between old and newly formed tissues may be important in the elimination of damaged cells. We used a model of adult brain regeneration in Drosophila in which mechanical puncture activates regenerative neurogenesis based on damage-responsive stem cells . We found that apoptosis after brain injury occurs in damage-exposed tissue located adjacent to zones of de novo neurogenesis. Injury-affected neurons start to express isoforms of the Flower cell fitness indicator protein not found on intact neurons. We show that this change in the neuronal fitness fingerprint is required to recognize and eliminate such neurons. Moreover, apoptosis is inhibited if all neurons express "low-fitness" markers, showing that the availability of new and healthy cells drives tissue replacement. In summary, we found that elimination of impaired tissue during brain regeneration requires comparison of neuronal fitness and that tissue replacement after brain damage is coordinated by injury-modulated fitness fingerprints. Intercellular fitness comparisons between old and newly formed tissues could be a general mechanism of regenerative tissue replacement.