Initiation of limb regeneration: The critical steps for regenerative capacity
While urodele amphibians (newts and salamanders) can regenerate limbs as adults, other tetrapods (reptiles, birds and mammals) cannot and just undergo wound healing. In adult mammals such as mice and humans, the wound heals and a scar is formed after injury, while wound healing is completed without scarring in an embryonic mouse. Completion of regeneration and wound healing takes a long time in regenerative and non-regenerative limbs, respectively. However, it is the early steps that are critical for determining the extent of regenerative response after limb amputation, ranging from wound healing with scar formation, scar-free wound healing, hypomorphic limb regeneration to complete limb regeneration. In addition to the accumulation of information on gene expression during limb regeneration, functional analysis of signaling molecules has recently shown important roles of fibroblast growth factor (FGF), Wnt/β-catenin and bone morphogenic protein (BMP)/Msx signaling. Here, the routine steps of wound healing/limb regeneration and signaling molecules specifically involved in limb regeneration are summarized. Regeneration of embryonic mouse digit tips and anuran amphibian (Xenopus) limbs shows intermediate regenerative responses between the two extremes, those of adult mammals (least regenerative) and urodele amphibians (more regenerative), providing a range of models to study the various abilities of limbs to regenerate.