Dynamic Polarization of the Multiciliated Planarian Epidermis between Body Plan Landmarks


Polarity is a universal design principle of biological systems that manifests at all organizational scales, yet its coordination across scales remains poorly understood. Here, we make use of the extreme anatomical plasticity of planarian flatworms to probe the interplay between global body plan polarity and local cell polarity. Our quantitative analysis of ciliary rootlet orientation in the epidermis reveals a dynamic polarity field with head and tail as independent determinants of anteroposterior (A/P) polarization and the body margin as determinant of mediolateral (M/L) polarization. Mathematical modeling rationalizes the global polarity field and its response to experimental manipulations as superposition of separate A/P and M/L fields, and we identify the core PCP and Ft/Ds pathways as their molecular mediators. Overall, our study establishes a framework for the alignment of cellular polarity vectors relative to planarian body plan landmarks and establishes the core PCP and Ft/Ds pathways as evolutionarily conserved 2D-polarization module.

Developmental Cell