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      High-Throughput Behavioral Analysis in C. elegans

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          We have designed a real-time computer vision system, the Multi-Worm Tracker (MWT), that can simultaneously quantify the behavior of dozens of Caenorhabditis elegans on a traditional petri plate at video rates. Three traditional behavioral paradigms are examined using this system: spontaneous movement on food, where the behavior changes over tens of minutes; chemotaxis, where turning events must be detected accurately to determine strategy; and habituation of response to tap, where the response is stochastic and changes over time. In each case, manual analysis or automated single-worm tracking would be tedious and time-consuming, but the MWT system allows rapid quantification of behavior with minimal human effort. Thus, this system will enablelarge scale forward and reverse genetic screens for complex behaviors.

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          Most cited references 26

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          Mutant sensory cilia in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

          Eight classes of chemosensory neurons in C. elegans fill with fluorescein when living animals are placed in a dye solution. Fluorescein enters the neurons through their exposed sensory cilia. Mutations in 14 genes prevent dye uptake and disrupt chemosensory behaviors. Each of these genes affects the ultrastructure of the chemosensory cilia or their accessory cells. In each case, the cilia are shorter or less exposed than normal, suggesting that dye contact is the principal factor under selection. Ten genes affect many or all of the sensory cilia in the head. The daf-19 (m86) mutation eliminates all cilia, leaving only occasional centrioles in the dendrites. The cilia in che-13 (e1805), osm-1 (p808), osm-5 (p813), and osm-6 (p811) mutants have normal transition zones and severely shortened axonemes. Doublet-microtubules, attached to the membrane by Y links, assemble ectopically proximal to the cilia in these mutants. The amphid cilia in che-11 (e1810) are irregular in diameter and contain dark ground material in the middle of the axonemes. Certain mechanocilia are also affected. The amphid cilia in che-10 (e1809) apparently degenerate, leaving dendrites with bulb-shaped endings filled with dark ground material. The mechanocilia lack striated rootlets. Cilia defects have also been found in che-2, che-3, and daf-10 mutants. The osm-3 (p802) mutation specifically eliminates the distal segment of the amphid cilia. Mutations in three genes affect sensillar support cells. The che-12 (e1812) mutation eliminates matrix material normally secreted by the amphid sheath cell. The che-14 (e1960) mutation disrupts the joining of the amphid sheath and socket cells to form the receptor channel. A similar defect has been observed in daf-6 mutants. Four additional genes affect specific classes of ciliated sensory neurons. The mec-1 and mec-8 (e398) mutations disrupt the fasciculation of the amphid cilia. The cat-6 (e1861) mutation disrupts the tubular bodies of the CEP mechanocilia. A cryophilic thermotaxis mutant, ttx-1 (p767), lacks fingers on the AFD dendrite, suggesting this neuron is thermosensory.
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            The fundamental role of pirouettes in Caenorhabditis elegans chemotaxis.

            To investigate the behavioral mechanism of chemotaxis in Caenorhabditis elegans, we recorded the instantaneous position, speed, and turning rate of single worms as a function of time during chemotaxis in gradients of the attractants ammonium chloride or biotin. Analysis of turning rate showed that each worm track could be divided into periods of smooth swimming (runs) and periods of frequent turning (pirouettes). The initiation of pirouettes was correlated with the rate of change of concentration (dC/dt) but not with absolute concentration. Pirouettes were most likely to occur when a worm was heading down the gradient (dC/dt 0). Further analysis revealed that the average direction of movement after a pirouette was up the gradient. These observations suggest that chemotaxis is produced by a series of pirouettes that reorient the animal to the gradient. We tested this idea by imposing the correlation between pirouettes and dC/dt on a stochastic point model of worm motion. The model exhibited chemotaxis behavior in a radial gradient and also in a novel planar gradient. Thus, the pirouette model of C. elegans chemotaxis is sufficient and general.
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              The Parallel Worm Tracker: A Platform for Measuring Average Speed and Drug-Induced Paralysis in Nematodes

              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.

                Author and article information

                Nat Methods
                Nature methods
                31 May 2011
                5 June 2011
                1 January 2012
                : 8
                : 7
                : 592-598
                [1 ] HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus, Ashburn, Virginia, USA
                [2 ] Graduate Program in Neuroscience, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
                [3 ] Brain Research Center, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
                [4 ] Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
                Author notes
                [6 ]Correspondence should be addressed to R.A.K. ( kerrr@ )

                These authors contributed equally to this work.


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