The free-living flatworm, Macrostomum lignano, much like its better known planarian relative, Schmidtea mediterranea, has an impressive regenerative capacity. Following injury, this species has the ability to regenerate almost an entirely new organism. This is attributable to the presence of an abundant somatic stem cell population, the neoblasts. These cells are also essential for the ongoing maintenance of most tissues, as their loss leads to irreversible degeneration of the animal. This set of unique properties makes a subset of flatworms attractive organisms for studying the evolution of pathways involved in tissue self-renewal, cell fate specification, and regeneration. The use of these organisms as models, however, is hampered by the lack of a well-assembled and annotated genome sequences, fundamental to modern genetic and molecular studies. Here we report the genomic sequence of Macrostomum lignano and an accompanying characterization of its transcriptome. The genome structure of M. lignano is remarkably complex, with ~75% of its sequence being comprised of simple repeats and transposon sequences. This has made high quality assembly from Illumina reads alone impossible (N50=222 bp). We therefore generated 130X coverage by long sequencing reads from the PacBio platform to create a substantially improved assembly with an N50 of 64 Kbp. We complemented the reference genome with an assembled and annotated transcriptome, and used both of these datasets in combination to probe gene expression patterns during regeneration, examining pathways important to stem cell function. As a whole, our data will provide a crucial resource for the community for the study not only of invertebrate evolution and phylogeny but also of regeneration and somatic pluripotency.
Organization: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory