An ERK-dependent molecular switch antagonizes fibrosis and promotes regeneration in spiny mice (Acomys)

Antonio Tomasso, Tim Koopmans, Philip Lijnzaad, Kerstin Bartscherer, Ashley W. Seifert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Although most mammals heal injured tissues and organs with scarring, spiny mice (Acomys) naturally regenerate skin and complex musculoskeletal tissues. Now, the core signaling pathways driving mammalian tissue regeneration are poorly characterized. Here, we show that, while immediate extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activation is a shared feature of scarring (Mus) and regenerating (Acomys) injuries, ERK activity is only sustained at high levels during complex tissue regeneration. Following ERK inhibition, ear punch regeneration in Acomys shifted toward fibrotic repair. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we identified ERK-responsive cell types. Loss- and gain-of-function experiments prompted us to uncover fibroblast growth factor and ErbB signaling as upstream ERK regulators of regeneration. The ectopic activation of ERK in scar-prone injuries induced a pro-regenerative response, including cell proliferation, extracellular matrix remodeling, and hair follicle neogenesis. Our data detail an important distinction in ERK activity between regenerating and poorly regenerating adult mammals and open avenues to redirect fibrotic repair toward regenerative healing.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereadf233
JournalScience advances
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 2023

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