The head of a hydra is composed of two parts, a domed hypostome with a mouth at the top and a ring of tentacles below. When animals are decapitated a new head regenerates. During the process of regeneration the apical tip passes through a transient stage in which it exhibits tentacle-like characteristics before becoming a hypostome. This was determined from markers which appeared before morphogenesis took place. The first was a monoclonal antibody, TS-19, that specifically binds to the ectodermal epithelial cells of the tentacles. The second was an antiserum against the peptide Arg-Phe-amide (RFamide), which in the head of hydra is specific to the sensory cells of the hypostomal apex and the ganglion cells of the lower hypostome and tentacles. The TS-19 expression and the ganglion cells with RFamide-like immunoreactivity (RLI) arose first at the apex and spread radially. Once the tentacles began evaginating in a ring, both the TS-19 antigen and RLI+ ganglion cells gradually disappeared from the presumptive hypostome area and RLI+ sensory cells appeared at the apex. By tracking tissue movements during morphogenesis it became clear that the apical cap, in which these changes took place, did not undergo tissue turnover. The implications of this tentacle-like stage for patterning the two-part head are discussed.

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