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      The Parallel Worm Tracker: A Platform for Measuring Average Speed and Drug-Induced Paralysis in Nematodes

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          Abstract

          Background

          Caenorhabditis elegans locomotion is a simple behavior that has been widely used to dissect genetic components of behavior, synaptic transmission, and muscle function. Many of the paradigms that have been created to study C. elegans locomotion rely on qualitative experimenter observation. Here we report the implementation of an automated tracking system developed to quantify the locomotion of multiple individual worms in parallel.

          Methodology/Principal Findings

          Our tracking system generates a consistent measurement of locomotion that allows direct comparison of results across experiments and experimenters and provides a standard method to share data between laboratories. The tracker utilizes a video camera attached to a zoom lens and a software package implemented in MATLAB®. We demonstrate several proof-of-principle applications for the tracker including measuring speed in the absence and presence of food and in the presence of serotonin. We further use the tracker to automatically quantify the time course of paralysis of worms exposed to aldicarb and levamisole and show that tracker performance compares favorably to data generated using a hand-scored metric.

          Conclusions/Signficance

          Although this is not the first automated tracking system developed to measure C. elegans locomotion, our tracking software package is freely available and provides a simple interface that includes tools for rapid data collection and analysis. By contrast with other tools, it is not dependent on a specific set of hardware. We propose that the tracker may be used for a broad range of additional worm locomotion applications including genetic and chemical screening.

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          Most cited references 56

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          The genetics of Caenorhabditis elegans.

          Methods are described for the isolation, complementation and mapping of mutants of Caenorhabditis elegans, a small free-living nematode worm. About 300 EMS-induced mutants affecting behavior and morphology have been characterized and about one hundred genes have been defined. Mutations in 77 of these alter the movement of the animal. Estimates of the induced mutation frequency of both the visible mutants and X chromosome lethals suggests that, just as in Drosophila, the genetic units in C. elegans are large.
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            Maintenance of C. elegans.

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              C. elegans Locomotory Rate Is Modulated by the Environment through a Dopaminergic Pathway and by Experience through a Serotonergic Pathway

              Caenorhabditis elegans modulates its locomotory rate in response to its food, bacteria, in two ways. First, well-fed wild-type animals move more slowly in the presence of bacteria than in the absence of bacteria. This basal slowing response is mediated by a dopamine-containing neural circuit that senses a mechanical attribute of bacteria and may be an adaptive mechanism that increases the amount of time animals spend in the presence of food. Second, food-deprived wild-type animals, when transferred to bacteria, display a dramatically enhanced slowing response that ensures that the animals do not leave their newly encountered source of food. This experience-dependent response is mediated by serotonergic neurotransmission and is potentiated by fluoxetine (Prozac). The basal and enhanced slowing responses are distinct and separable neuromodulatory components of a genetically tractable paradigm of behavioral plasticity.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1932-6203
                2008
                21 May 2008
                : 3
                : 5
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Program in Neuroscience, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America
                [2 ]Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, United States of America
                [3 ]Department of Biological Sciences, Central Washington University, Ellensberg, Washington, United States of America
                Texas A&M University, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: MG DR BJ LC. Performed the experiments: BJ TB LC. Analyzed the data: DR BJ TB LC. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: DR. Wrote the paper: MG DR BJ LC.

                [¤a]

                Current address: D. E. Shaw Research, LLC, New York, New York, United States of America

                [¤b]

                Current address: Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America

                Article
                08-PONE-RA-03745R1
                10.1371/journal.pone.0002208
                2373883
                18493300
                Ramot et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 7
                Categories
                Research Article
                Neuroscience
                Genetics and Genomics/Animal Genetics
                Genetics and Genomics/Functional Genomics
                Neuroscience/Motor Systems
                Physiology/Integrative Physiology
                Physiology/Motor Systems

                Uncategorized

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