Heterologous reporter expression in the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea through somatic mRNA transfection

Richard Nelson Hall, Uri Weill, Leonard Drees, Sergio Leal-Ortiz, Hongquan Li, Margarita Khariton, Chew Chai, Yuan Xue, Benyamin Rosental, Stephen R. Quake, Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, Nicholas A. Melosh, Andrew Z. Fire, Jochen C. Rink, Bo Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Planarians have long been studied for their regenerative abilities. Moving forward, tools for ectopic expression of non-native proteins will be of substantial value. Using a luminescent reporter to overcome the strong autofluorescence of planarian tissues, we demonstrate heterologous protein expression in planarian cells and live animals. Our approach is based on the introduction of mRNA through several nanotechnological and chemical transfection methods. We improve reporter expression by altering untranslated region (UTR) sequences and codon bias, facilitating the measurement of expression kinetics in both isolated cells and whole planarians using luminescence imaging. We also examine protein expression as a function of variations in the UTRs of delivered mRNA, demonstrating a framework to investigate gene regulation at the post-transcriptional level. Together, these advances expand the toolbox for the mechanistic analysis of planarian biology and establish a foundation for the development and expansion of transgenic techniques in this unique model system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100298
JournalCell Reports Methods
Issue number10
StatePublished - 24 Oct 2022


  • flatworm
  • gene delivery
  • luminescence
  • mRNA transfection
  • planarian
  • post-transcriptional regulation
  • Schmidtea mediterranea
  • somatic transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Genetics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Science Applications


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