Professor Aziz Aboobaker

Research Interests

My research is focused on animal regeneration and the stem cells that power this process. The main exprimental system we use is the planarian flatworm model system, and this allows us to study basic questions about how tissue regeneration is orchestrated and the features of stem cell biology that facilitate this. These animals rely on a population of remarkable pluripotent adult stem cells called neoblasts, that underpin these animals regeneration capacity and apparent immortality. Furthermore, we can use planarians to study the molecular mechanisms related to both cancer and aging, such as stem cell proliferation, differentiation and migration, that are all tightly controlled by conserved molecular mechanisms during regeneration.

Highly regenerative animals solve the regeneration problem using different  cellular solutions, includng the use of pluripotent stem cells, lineage committed adult stem cells and dedifferentiation of tissue specific cells that regain potency. We hope to expand our work in planarians to investigate some of these in other appropriate animals  to see if they can provide further insight into the relationship between regeneration, stem cells and ageing. For example, we have recently sequenced the genome of the amphipod crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis, that is able to regenerate its many different types of limbs. We are now investigating the regeneration and stem cell biology in these animals, which is fundamentally very different from planarians.

Selected Publications

Mihaylova Y, Abnave P, Kao D, Hughes S, Lai A, Jaber-Hijazi F, Kosaka N, Aboobaker AA. Conservation of epigenetic regulation by the MLL3/4 tumour suppressor in planarian pluripotent stem cells. Nat Commun. 2018 Sep 7;9(1):3633. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06092-6.

Dattani A, Kao D, Mihaylova Y, Abnave P, Hughes S, Lai A, Sahu S, Aboobaker AA. Epigenetic analyses of planarian stem cells demonstrate conservation of bivalent histone modifications in animal stem cells. Genome Res. 2018 Oct;28(10):1543-1554. doi: 10.1101/gr.239848.118.

Lai AG, Aboobaker AA. EvoRegen in animals: Time to uncover deep conservation or convergence of adult stem cell evolution and regenerative processes. Dev Biol. 2018 Jan 15;433(2):118-131. doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2017.10.010.

Abnave P, Aboukhatwa E, Kosaka N, Thompson J, Hill MA, Aboobaker AA. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition transcription factors control pluripotent adult stem cell migration in vivo in planarians. Development. 2017 Oct1;144(19):3440-3453. doi: 10.1242/dev.154971

Kao D, Lai AG, Stamataki E, Rosic S, Konstantinides N, Jarvis E, Di Donfrancesco A, Pouchkina-Stancheva N, Semon M, Grillo M, Bruce H, Kumar S, Siwanowicz I, Le A, Lemire A, Eisen MB, Extavour C, Browne WE, Wolff C, Averof M, Patel NH, Sarkies P, Pavlopoulos A, Abooobaker AA. The genome of the crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis, a model for animal development, regeneration, immunity and lignocellulose digestion.  Elife. 2016 Nov 16;5. pii: e20062. doi: 10.7554/eLife.20062.

Solana J, Gamberi C, Mihaylova Y, Grosswendt S, Chen C, Lasko P, Rajewsky N, Aboobaker AA. The CCR4-NOT Complex Mediates Deadenylation and Degradation of Stem Cell mRNAs and Promotes Planarian Stem Cell Differentiation. PLoS Genetics 2013; 9(12):e1004003. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004003.

Blassberg RA, Felix DA, Tejada-Romero B, Aboobaker AA. PBX/extradenticle is required to re-establish axial structures and polarity during planarian regeneration. Development. 2013;140(4):730-9. doi: 10.1242/dev.082982.

Mihaylova Y, Aboobaker AA. What is it about 'eye of newt'? Genome Biol. 2013 20;14(2):106.

Aboobaker AA, Kao D. A lack of commitment for over 500 million years: conserved animal stem cell pluripotency. EMBO J. 2012 Jun 13;31(12):2747-9. doi:10.1038/emboj.2012.131.

González-Estévez C, Felix DA, Smith MD, Paps J, Morley SJ, James V, Sharp TV, Aboobaker AA. SMG-1 and mTORC1 act antagonistically to regulate response to injury and growth in planarians. PLoS Genet. 2012;8(3):e1002619. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002619.

Tan TC, Rahman R, Jaber-Hijazi F, Felix DA, Chen C, Louis EJ, Aboobaker A. Telomere maintenance and telomerase activity are differentially regulated in asexual and sexual worms. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109(11):4209-14. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1118885109.

Aboobaker AA. Planarian stem cells: a simple paradigm for regeneration. Trends Cell Biol. 2011;21(5):304-11. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2011.01.005.

List of site pages