Aging in many animals is characterized by a failure to maintain tissue homeostasis and the loss of regenerative capacity. In this study, the ability to maintain tissue homeostasis and regenerative potential was investigated in sea urchins, a novel model to study longevity and negligible senescence. Sea urchins grow indeterminately, regenerate damaged appendages and reproduce throughout their lifespan and yet different species are reported to have very different life expectancies (ranging from 4 to more than 100 years). Quantitative analyses of cell proliferation and apoptosis indicated a low level of cell turnover in tissues of young and old sea urchins of species with different lifespans (Lytechinus variegatus, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and Mesocentrotus franciscanus). The ability to regenerate damaged tissue was maintained with age as assessed by the regrowth of amputated spines and tube feet (motor and sensory appendages). Expression of genes involved in cell proliferation (pcna), telomere maintenance (tert) and multipotency (seawi and vasa) was maintained with age in somatic tissues. Immunolocalization of the Vasa protein to areas of the tube feet, spines, radial nerve, esophagus and a sub-population of circulating coelomocytes suggests the presence of multipotent cells that may play a role in normal tissue homeostasis and the regenerative potential of external appendages. The results indicate that regenerative potential was maintained with age regardless of lifespan, contrary to the expectation that shorter lived species would invest less in maintenance and repair.

Bodnar, A.G. and Coffman, J.A. (2016) Maintenance of somatic regenerative capacity with age in short- and long-lived species of sea urchins. Aging Cell. doi: 10.1111/acel.12487.