Caenorhabditis elegans is a free-living nematode that resides in soil and typically feeds on bacteria. We postulate that haematophagic C. elegans could provide a model to evaluate vaccine responses to intestinal proteins from hematophagous nematode parasites, such as Necator americanus. Human erythrocytes, fluorescently labelled with tetramethylrhodamine succinimidyl ester, demonstrated a stable bright emission and facilitated visualization of feeding events with fluorescent microscopy. C. elegans were observed feeding on erythrocytes and were shown to rupture red blood cells upon capture to release and ingest their contents. In addition, C. elegans survived equally on a diet of erythrocytes. There was no statistically significant difference in survival when compared with a diet of Escherichia coli OP50. The enzymes responsible for the digestion and detoxification of haem and haemoglobin, which are key components of the hookworm vaccine, were found in the C. elegans intestine. These findings support our postulate that free-living nematodes could provide a model for the assessment of neutralizing antibodies to current and future hematophagous parasite vaccine candidates.
Study of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has provided important insights in a wide range of fields in biology. The ability to precisely modify genomes is critical to fully realize the utility of model organisms. Here we report a method to edit the C. elegans genome using the clustered, regularly interspersed, short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease and homologous recombination. We demonstrate that Cas9 is able to induce DNA double-strand breaks with specificity for targeted sites and that these breaks can be repaired efficiently by homologous recombination. By supplying engineered homologous repair templates, we generated gfp knock-ins and targeted mutations. Together our results outline a flexible methodology to produce essentially any desired modification in the C. elegans genome quickly and at low cost. This technology is an important addition to the array of genetic techniques already available in this experimentally tractable model organism.
In the laboratory, the nematode lives on the surface of nutrient agar in Petri dishes, feeding on a lawn of the uracil auxotroph strain OP50, an mutant strain. This sentence sums up the fundamentals of ecology, as most of us know it. While over 15,000 articles on diverse biological aspects of attest to the worm's undisputable virtues as a major model organism, its biology in the wild remains mysterious. To properly interpret and fully understand the available wealth of genetic, molecular and other biological observations made in the laboratory, it will be important to know its natural history and to place the species in its ecological and evolutionary context. With the aim of connecting the discoveries that have been made about biology to its ‘real life’, we shall discuss recent studies on the worm's natural habitat and population biology, and outline key issues in attaining a modern natural history of
The generation of genetic mutants in Caenorhabditis elegans has long relied on the selection of mutations in large-scale screens. Directed mutagenesis of specific loci in the genome would greatly speed up analysis of gene function. Here, we adapt the CRISPR/Cas9 system to generate mutations at specific sites in the C. elegans genome.
We present an imaging system for pan-neuronal recording in crawling . A spinning disk confocal microscope, modified for automated tracking of the head ganglia, simultaneously records the activity and position of ∼80 neurons that coexpress cytoplasmic calcium indicator GCaMP6s and nuclear localized red fluorescent protein at 10 volumes per second. We developed a behavioral analysis algorithm that maps the movements of the head ganglia to the animal’s posture and locomotion. Image registration and analysis software automatically assigns an index to each nucleus and calculates the corresponding calcium signal. Neurons with highly stereotyped positions can be associated with unique indexes and subsequently identified using an atlas of the worm nervous system. To test our system, we analyzed the brainwide activity patterns of moving worms subjected to thermosensory inputs. We demonstrate that our setup is able to uncover representations of sensory input and motor output of individual neurons from brainwide dynamics. Our imaging setup and analysis pipeline should facilitate mapping circuits for sensory to motor transformation in transparent behaving animals such as and .
Chromatin modifiers regulate lifespan in several organisms, raising the question of whether changes in chromatin states in the parental generation could be incompletely reprogrammed in the next generation and thereby affect the lifespan of descendants. The histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) complex, composed of ASH-2, WDR-5 and the histone methyltransferase SET-2, regulates Caenorhabditis elegans lifespan. Here we show that deficiencies in the H3K4me3 chromatin modifiers ASH-2, WDR-5 or SET-2 in the parental generation extend the lifespan of descendants up until the third generation. The transgenerational inheritance of lifespan extension by members of the ASH-2 complex is dependent on the H3K4me3 demethylase RBR-2, and requires the presence of a functioning germline in the descendants. Transgenerational inheritance of lifespan is specific for the H3K4me3 methylation complex and is associated with epigenetic changes in gene expression. Thus, manipulation of specific chromatin modifiers only in parents can induce an epigenetic memory of longevity in descendants.
The acoustic compressibility of is a necessary parameter for further understanding the underlying physics of acoustic manipulation techniques of this widely used model organism in biological sciences. In this work, numerical simulations were combined with experimental trajectory velocimetry of L1 larvae to estimate the acoustic compressibility of . A method based on bulk acoustic wave acoustophoresis was used for trajectory velocimetry experiments in a microfluidic channel. The model-based data analysis took into account the different sizes and shapes of L1 larvae (255 ± 26 m in length and 15 ± 2 m in diameter). Moreover, the top and bottom walls of the microfluidic channel were considered in the hydrodynamic drag coefficient calculations, for both the and the calibration particles. The hydrodynamic interaction between the specimen and the channel walls was further minimized by acoustically levitating the and the particles to the middle of the measurement channel. Our data suggest an acoustic compressibility of 430 TPa with an uncertainty range of ±20 TPa for , a much lower value than what was previously reported for adult using static methods. Our estimated compressibility is consistent with the relative volume fraction of lipids and proteins that would mainly make up for the body of . This work is a departing point for practical engineering and design criteria for integrated acoustofluidic devices for biological applications.
The nuo-6 and isp-1 genes of C. elegans encode, respectively, subunits of complex I and III of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Partial loss-of-function mutations in these genes decrease electron transport and greatly increase the longevity of C. elegans by a mechanism that is distinct from that induced by reducing their level of expression by RNAi. Electron transport is a major source of the superoxide anion (O center dot-), which in turn generates several types of toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS), and aging is accompanied by increased oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the generation and detoxification of ROS. These observations have suggested that the longevity of such mitochondrial mutants might result from a reduction in ROS generation, which would be consistent with the mitochondrial oxidative stress theory of aging. It is difficult to measure ROS directly in living animals, and this has held back progress in determining their function in aging. Here we have adapted a technique of flow cytometry to directly measure ROS levels in isolated mitochondria to show that the generation of superoxide is elevated in the nuo-6 and isp-1 mitochondrial mutants, although overall ROS levels are not, and oxidative stress is low. Furthermore, we show that this elevation is necessary and sufficient to increase longevity, as it is abolished by the antioxidants NAC and vitamin C, and phenocopied by mild treatment with the prooxidant paraquat. Furthermore, the absence of effect of NAC and the additivity of the effect of paraquat on a variety of long-and short-lived mutants suggest that the pathway triggered by mitochondrial superoxide is distinct from previously studied mechanisms, including insulin signaling, dietary restriction, ubiquinone deficiency, the hypoxic response, and hormesis. These findings are not consistent with the mitochondrial oxidative stress theory of aging. Instead they show that increased superoxide generation acts as a signal in young mutant animals to trigger changes of gene expression that prevent or attenuate the effects of subsequent aging. We propose that superoxide is generated as a protective signal in response to molecular damage sustained during wild-type aging as well. This model provides a new explanation for the well-documented correlation between ROS and the aged phenotype as a gradual increase of molecular damage during aging would trigger a gradually stronger ROS response.
Despite recent interest in reconstructing neuronal networks, complete wiring diagrams on the level of individual synapses remain scarce and the insights into function they can provide remain unclear. Even for Caenorhabditis elegans, whose neuronal network is relatively small and stereotypical from animal to animal, published wiring diagrams are neither accurate nor complete and self-consistent. Using materials from White et al. and new electron micrographs we assemble whole, self-consistent gap junction and chemical synapse networks of hermaphrodite C. elegans. We propose a method to visualize the wiring diagram, which reflects network signal flow. We calculate statistical and topological properties of the network, such as degree distributions, synaptic multiplicities, and small-world properties, that help in understanding network signal propagation. We identify neurons that may play central roles in information processing, and network motifs that could serve as functional modules of the network. We explore propagation of neuronal activity in response to sensory or artificial stimulation using linear systems theory and find several activity patterns that could serve as substrates of previously described behaviors. Finally, we analyze the interaction between the gap junction and the chemical synapse networks. Since several statistical properties of the C. elegans network, such as multiplicity and motif distributions are similar to those found in mammalian neocortex, they likely point to general principles of neuronal networks. The wiring diagram reported here can help in understanding the mechanistic basis of behavior by generating predictions about future experiments involving genetic perturbations, laser ablations, or monitoring propagation of neuronal activity in response to stimulation.
The power of any genetic model organism is derived, in part, from the ease with which gene expression can be manipulated. The short generation time and invariant developmental lineage have made Caenorhabditis elegans very useful for understanding, e.g., developmental programs, basic cell biology, neurobiology, and aging. Over the last decade, the C. elegans transgenic toolbox has expanded considerably, with the addition of a variety of methods to control expression and modify genes with unprecedented resolution. Here, we provide a comprehensive overview of transgenic methods in C. elegans, with an emphasis on recent advances in transposon-mediated transgenesis, CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, conditional gene and protein inactivation, and bipartite systems for temporal and spatial control of expression.