Jellyfish have existed on the earth for around 600 million years and have evolved in response to environmental changes. Hydrozoan jellyfish, members of phylum Cnidaria, exist in multiple life stages, including planula larvae, vegetativelypropagating polyps, and sexually-reproducing medusae. Although free-swimming medusae display complex morphology and exhibit increase in body size and regenerative ability, their underlying cellular mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, we investigate the roles of cell proliferation in body-size growth, appendage morphogenesis, and regeneration using Cladonema pacificum as a hydrozoan jellyfish model. By examining the distribution of S phase cells and mitotic cells, we revealed spatially distinct proliferating cell populations in medusae, uniform cell proliferation in the umbrella, and clustered cell proliferation in tentacles. Blocking cell proliferation by hydroxyurea caused inhibition of body size growth and defects in tentacle branching, nematocyte differentiation, and regeneration. Local cell proliferation in tentacle bulbs is observed in medusae of two other hydrozoan species, Cytaeis uchidae and Rathkea octopunctata, indicating that it may be a conserved feature among hydrozoan jellyfish. Altogether, our results suggest that hydrozoan medusae possess actively proliferating cells and provide experimental evidence regarding the role of cell proliferation in body-size control, tentacle morphogenesis, and regeneration.
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