How to turn a tentacle into a foot

Humans, animals, plants: all multicellular organisms are made up of specialized cells called differentiated cells. Thus, the cells that make up the epidermis do not have the same identity - nor the same function - as those that line the digestive system, for example. However, the mechanisms by which these cells maintain their identity are still poorly understood.

Working on the freshwater polyp named Hydra, Brigitte Galliot's group from the GenEv Department, in collaboration with the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) in Basel, discovered one of the key regulators: the transcription factor Zic4. After reducing Zic4 expression, the researchers found that Hydra tentacle cells changed their identity and turned into foot cells, forming functional feet in the animal’s head.

The article was published in the journal Science Advances on December 23, 2022.

Read the UNIGE press release.

5 Jan 2023