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QuantWorm: a comprehensive software package for Caenorhabditis elegans phenotypic assays.
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
Phenotypic assays are crucial in genetics; however, traditional methods that rely on human observation are unsuitable for quantitative, large-scale experiments. Furthermore, there is an increasing need for comprehensive analyses of multiple phenotypes to provide multidimensional information. Here we developed an automated, high-throughput computer imaging system for quantifying multiple Caenorhabditis elegans phenotypes. Our imaging system is composed of a microscope equipped with a digital camera and a motorized stage connected to a computer running the QuantWorm software package. Currently, the software package contains one data acquisition module and four image analysis programs: WormLifespan, WormLocomotion, WormLength, and WormEgg. The data acquisition module collects images and videos. The WormLifespan software counts the number of moving worms by using two time-lapse images; the WormLocomotion software computes the velocity of moving worms; the WormLength software measures worm body size; and the WormEgg software counts the number of eggs. To evaluate the performance of our software, we compared the results of our software with manual measurements. We then demonstrated the application of the QuantWorm software in a drug assay and a genetic assay. Overall, the QuantWorm software provided accurate measurements at a high speed. Software source code, executable programs, and sample images are available at Our software package has several advantages over current imaging systems for C. elegans. It is an all-in-one package for quantifying multiple phenotypes. The QuantWorm software is written in Java and its source code is freely available, so it does not require use of commercial software or libraries. It can be run on multiple platforms and easily customized to cope with new methods and requirements.
Authors: Christopher J. Gaffney, Joseph J. Bass, Thomas F. Barratt, Nathaniel J. Szewczyk.
Published: 11-13-2014
Muscle is a dynamic tissue that responds to changes in nutrition, exercise, and disease state. The loss of muscle mass and function with disease and age are significant public health burdens. We currently understand little about the genetic regulation of muscle health with disease or age. The nematode C. elegans is an established model for understanding the genomic regulation of biological processes of interest. This worm’s body wall muscles display a large degree of homology with the muscles of higher metazoan species. Since C. elegans is a transparent organism, the localization of GFP to mitochondria and sarcomeres allows visualization of these structures in vivo. Similarly, feeding animals cationic dyes, which accumulate based on the existence of a mitochondrial membrane potential, allows the assessment of mitochondrial function in vivo. These methods, as well as assessment of muscle protein homeostasis, are combined with assessment of whole animal muscle function, in the form of movement assays, to allow correlation of sub-cellular defects with functional measures of muscle performance. Thus, C. elegans provides a powerful platform with which to assess the impact of mutations, gene knockdown, and/or chemical compounds upon muscle structure and function. Lastly, as GFP, cationic dyes, and movement assays are assessed non-invasively, prospective studies of muscle structure and function can be conducted across the whole life course and this at present cannot be easily investigated in vivo in any other organism.
26 Related JoVE Articles!
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Biochemical and High Throughput Microscopic Assessment of Fat Mass in Caenorhabditis Elegans
Authors: Elizabeth C. Pino, Christopher M. Webster, Christopher E. Carr, Alexander A. Soukas.
Institutions: Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The nematode C. elegans has emerged as an important model for the study of conserved genetic pathways regulating fat metabolism as it relates to human obesity and its associated pathologies. Several previous methodologies developed for the visualization of C. elegans triglyceride-rich fat stores have proven to be erroneous, highlighting cellular compartments other than lipid droplets. Other methods require specialized equipment, are time-consuming, or yield inconsistent results. We introduce a rapid, reproducible, fixative-based Nile red staining method for the accurate and rapid detection of neutral lipid droplets in C. elegans. A short fixation step in 40% isopropanol makes animals completely permeable to Nile red, which is then used to stain animals. Spectral properties of this lipophilic dye allow it to strongly and selectively fluoresce in the yellow-green spectrum only when in a lipid-rich environment, but not in more polar environments. Thus, lipid droplets can be visualized on a fluorescent microscope equipped with simple GFP imaging capability after only a brief Nile red staining step in isopropanol. The speed, affordability, and reproducibility of this protocol make it ideally suited for high throughput screens. We also demonstrate a paired method for the biochemical determination of triglycerides and phospholipids using gas chromatography mass-spectrometry. This more rigorous protocol should be used as confirmation of results obtained from the Nile red microscopic lipid determination. We anticipate that these techniques will become new standards in the field of C. elegans metabolic research.
Genetics, Issue 73, Biochemistry, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Developmental Biology, Physiology, Anatomy, Caenorhabditis elegans, Obesity, Energy Metabolism, Lipid Metabolism, C. elegans, fluorescent lipid staining, lipids, Nile red, fat, high throughput screening, obesity, gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, GC/MS, animal model
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Culturing Caenorhabditis elegans in Axenic Liquid Media and Creation of Transgenic Worms by Microparticle Bombardment
Authors: Tamika K. Samuel, Jason W. Sinclair, Katherine L. Pinter, Iqbal Hamza.
Institutions: University of Maryland, University of Maryland.
In this protocol, we present the required materials, and the procedure for making modified C. elegans Habituation and Reproduction media (mCeHR). Additionally, the steps for exposing and acclimatizing C. elegans grown on E. coli to axenic liquid media are described. Finally, downstream experiments that utilize axenic C. elegans illustrate the benefits of this procedure. The ability to analyze and determine C. elegans nutrient requirement was illustrated by growing N2 wild type worms in axenic liquid media with varying heme concentrations. This procedure can be replicated with other nutrients to determine the optimal concentration for worm growth and development or, to determine the toxicological effects of drug treatments. The effects of varied heme concentrations on the growth of wild type worms were determined through qualitative microscopic observation and by quantitating the number of worms that grew in each heme concentration. In addition, the effect of varied nutrient concentrations can be assayed by utilizing worms that express fluorescent sensors that respond to changes in the nutrient of interest. Furthermore, a large number of worms were easily produced for the generation of transgenic C. elegans using microparticle bombardment.
Molecular Biology, Issue 90, C. elegans, axenic media, transgenics, microparticle bombardment, heme, nutrition
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In Vivo Imaging of Dauer-specific Neuronal Remodeling in C. elegans
Authors: Nathan E. Schroeder, Kristen M. Flatt.
Institutions: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
The mechanisms controlling stress-induced phenotypic plasticity in animals are frequently complex and difficult to study in vivo. A classic example of stress-induced plasticity is the dauer stage of C. elegans. Dauers are an alternative developmental larval stage formed under conditions of low concentrations of bacterial food and high concentrations of a dauer pheromone. Dauers display extensive developmental and behavioral plasticity. For example, a set of four inner-labial quadrant (IL2Q) neurons undergo extensive reversible remodeling during dauer formation. Utilizing the well-known environmental pathways regulating dauer entry, a previously established method for the production of crude dauer pheromone from large-scale liquid nematode cultures is demonstrated. With this method, a concentration of 50,000 - 75,000 nematodes/ml of liquid culture is sufficient to produce a highly potent crude dauer pheromone. The crude pheromone potency is determined by a dose-response bioassay. Finally, the methods used for in vivo time-lapse imaging of the IL2Qs during dauer formation are described.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, C. elegans, dauer, dendrite, arborization, phenotypic plasticity, stress, imaging, pheromone
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Measuring the Effects of Bacteria on C. Elegans Behavior Using an Egg Retention Assay
Authors: Mona Gardner, Mary Rosell, Edith M. Myers.
Institutions: Fairleigh Dickinson University.
C. elegans egg-laying behavior is affected by environmental cues such as osmolarity1 and vibration2. In the total absence of food C. elegans also cease egg-laying and retain fertilized eggs in their uterus3. However, the effect of different sources of food, especially pathogenic bacteria and particularly Enterococcus faecalis, on egg-laying behavior is not well characterized. The egg-in-worm (EIW) assay is a useful tool to quantify the effects of different types of bacteria, in this case E. faecalis, on egg- laying behavior. EIW assays involve counting the number of eggs retained in the uterus of C. elegans4. The EIW assay involves bleaching staged, gravid adult C. elegans to remove the cuticle and separate the retained eggs from the animal. Prior to bleaching, worms are exposed to bacteria (or any type of environmental cue) for a fixed period of time. After bleaching, one is very easily able to count the number of eggs retained inside the uterus of the worms. In this assay, a quantifiable increase in egg retention after E. faecalis exposure can be easily measured. The EIW assay is a behavioral assay that may be used to screen for potentially pathogenic bacteria or the presence of environmental toxins. In addition, the EIW assay may be a tool to screen for drugs that affect neurotransmitter signaling since egg-laying behavior is modulated by neurotransmitters such as serotonin and acetylcholine5-9.
Developmental Biology, Issue 80, Microbiology, C. elegans, Behavior, Animal, Microbiology, Caenorhabditis elegans, Enterococcus faecalis, egg-laying behavior, animal model
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A Method for Culturing Embryonic C. elegans Cells
Authors: Rachele Sangaletti, Laura Bianchi.
Institutions: University of Miami .
C. elegans is a powerful model system, in which genetic and molecular techniques are easily applicable. Until recently though, techniques that require direct access to cells and isolation of specific cell types, could not be applied in C. elegans. This limitation was due to the fact that tissues are confined within a pressurized cuticle which is not easily digested by treatment with enzymes and/or detergents. Based on early pioneer work by Laird Bloom, Christensen and colleagues 1 developed a robust method for culturing C. elegans embryonic cells in large scale. Eggs are isolated from gravid adults by treatment with bleach/NaOH and subsequently treated with chitinase to remove the eggshells. Embryonic cells are then dissociated by manual pipetting and plated onto substrate-covered glass in serum-enriched media. Within 24 hr of isolation cells begin to differentiate by changing morphology and by expressing cell specific markers. C. elegans cells cultured using this method survive for up 2 weeks in vitro and have been used for electrophysiological, immunochemical, and imaging analyses as well as they have been sorted and used for microarray profiling.
Developmental Biology, Issue 79, Eukaryota, Biological Phenomena, Cell Physiological Phenomena, C. elegans, cell culture, embryonic cells
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Using Caenorhabditis elegans as a Model System to Study Protein Homeostasis in a Multicellular Organism
Authors: Ido Karady, Anna Frumkin, Shiran Dror, Netta Shemesh, Nadav Shai, Anat Ben-Zvi.
Institutions: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The folding and assembly of proteins is essential for protein function, the long-term health of the cell, and longevity of the organism. Historically, the function and regulation of protein folding was studied in vitro, in isolated tissue culture cells and in unicellular organisms. Recent studies have uncovered links between protein homeostasis (proteostasis), metabolism, development, aging, and temperature-sensing. These findings have led to the development of new tools for monitoring protein folding in the model metazoan organism Caenorhabditis elegans. In our laboratory, we combine behavioral assays, imaging and biochemical approaches using temperature-sensitive or naturally occurring metastable proteins as sensors of the folding environment to monitor protein misfolding. Behavioral assays that are associated with the misfolding of a specific protein provide a simple and powerful readout for protein folding, allowing for the fast screening of genes and conditions that modulate folding. Likewise, such misfolding can be associated with protein mislocalization in the cell. Monitoring protein localization can, therefore, highlight changes in cellular folding capacity occurring in different tissues, at various stages of development and in the face of changing conditions. Finally, using biochemical tools ex vivo, we can directly monitor protein stability and conformation. Thus, by combining behavioral assays, imaging and biochemical techniques, we are able to monitor protein misfolding at the resolution of the organism, the cell, and the protein, respectively.
Biochemistry, Issue 82, aging, Caenorhabditis elegans, heat shock response, neurodegenerative diseases, protein folding homeostasis, proteostasis, stress, temperature-sensitive
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C. elegans Chemotaxis Assay
Authors: Olivia Margie, Chris Palmer, Ian Chin-Sang.
Institutions: Queen's University , Queen's University , Queen's University .
Many organisms use chemotaxis to seek out food sources, avoid noxious substances, and find mates. Caenorhabditis elegans has impressive chemotaxis behavior. The premise behind testing the response of the worms to an odorant is to place them in an area and observe the movement evoked in response to an odorant. Even with the many available assays, optimizing worm starting location relative to both the control and test areas, while minimizing the interaction of worms with each other, while maintaining a significant sample size remains a work in progress 1-10. The method described here aims to address these issues by modifying the assay developed by Bargmann et al.1. A Petri dish is divided into four quadrants, two opposite quadrants marked "Test" and two are designated "Control". Anesthetic is placed in all test and control sites. The worms are placed in the center of the plate with a circle marked around the origin to ensure that non-motile worms will be ignored. Utilizing a four-quadrant system rather than one 2 or two 1 eliminates bias in the movement of the worms, as they are equidistant from test and control samples, regardless of which side of the origin they began. This circumvents the problem of worms being forced to travel through a cluster of other worms to respond to an odorant, which can delay worms or force them to take a more circuitous route, yielding an incorrect interpretation of their intended path. This method also shows practical advantages by having a larger sample size and allowing the researcher to run the assay unattended and score the worms once the allotted time has expired.
Behavior, Issue 74, Biochemistry, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Developmental Biology, Physiology, Anatomy, Chemical Engineering, chemotaxis, Caenorhabditis elegans, C. elegans, chemotaxis assay, nematode, chemotactic index, worm movement, animal model
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Lensfree On-chip Tomographic Microscopy Employing Multi-angle Illumination and Pixel Super-resolution
Authors: Serhan O. Isikman, Waheb Bishara, Aydogan Ozcan.
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles , University of California, Los Angeles , University of California, Los Angeles .
Tomographic imaging has been a widely used tool in medicine as it can provide three-dimensional (3D) structural information regarding objects of different size scales. In micrometer and millimeter scales, optical microscopy modalities find increasing use owing to the non-ionizing nature of visible light, and the availability of a rich set of illumination sources (such as lasers and light-emitting-diodes) and detection elements (such as large format CCD and CMOS detector-arrays). Among the recently developed optical tomographic microscopy modalities, one can include optical coherence tomography, optical diffraction tomography, optical projection tomography and light-sheet microscopy. 1-6 These platforms provide sectional imaging of cells, microorganisms and model animals such as C. elegans, zebrafish and mouse embryos. Existing 3D optical imagers generally have relatively bulky and complex architectures, limiting the availability of these equipments to advanced laboratories, and impeding their integration with lab-on-a-chip platforms and microfluidic chips. To provide an alternative tomographic microscope, we recently developed lensfree optical tomography (LOT) as a high-throughput, compact and cost-effective optical tomography modality. 7 LOT discards the use of lenses and bulky optical components, and instead relies on multi-angle illumination and digital computation to achieve depth-resolved imaging of micro-objects over a large imaging volume. LOT can image biological specimen at a spatial resolution of <1 μm x <1 μm x <3 μm in the x, y and z dimensions, respectively, over a large imaging volume of 15-100 mm3, and can be particularly useful for lab-on-a-chip platforms.
Bioengineering, Issue 66, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, lensfree imaging, lensless imaging, on-chip microscopy, lensfree tomography, 3D microscopy, pixel super-resolution, C. elegans, optical sectioning, lab-on-a-chip
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Contextual and Cued Fear Conditioning Test Using a Video Analyzing System in Mice
Authors: Hirotaka Shoji, Keizo Takao, Satoko Hattori, Tsuyoshi Miyakawa.
Institutions: Fujita Health University, Core Research for Evolutionary Science and Technology (CREST), National Institutes of Natural Sciences.
The contextual and cued fear conditioning test is one of the behavioral tests that assesses the ability of mice to learn and remember an association between environmental cues and aversive experiences. In this test, mice are placed into a conditioning chamber and are given parings of a conditioned stimulus (an auditory cue) and an aversive unconditioned stimulus (an electric footshock). After a delay time, the mice are exposed to the same conditioning chamber and a differently shaped chamber with presentation of the auditory cue. Freezing behavior during the test is measured as an index of fear memory. To analyze the behavior automatically, we have developed a video analyzing system using the ImageFZ application software program, which is available as a free download at Here, to show the details of our protocol, we demonstrate our procedure for the contextual and cued fear conditioning test in C57BL/6J mice using the ImageFZ system. In addition, we validated our protocol and the video analyzing system performance by comparing freezing time measured by the ImageFZ system or a photobeam-based computer measurement system with that scored by a human observer. As shown in our representative results, the data obtained by ImageFZ were similar to those analyzed by a human observer, indicating that the behavioral analysis using the ImageFZ system is highly reliable. The present movie article provides detailed information regarding the test procedures and will promote understanding of the experimental situation.
Behavior, Issue 85, Fear, Learning, Memory, ImageFZ program, Mouse, contextual fear, cued fear
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C. elegans Positive Butanone Learning, Short-term, and Long-term Associative Memory Assays
Authors: Amanda Kauffman, Lance Parsons, Geneva Stein, Airon Wills, Rachel Kaletsky, Coleen Murphy.
Institutions: Princeton University, Princeton University.
The memory of experiences and learned information is critical for organisms to make choices that aid their survival. C. elegans navigates its environment through neuron-specific detection of food and chemical odors1, 2, and can associate nutritive states with chemical odors3, temperature4, and the pathogenicity of a food source5. Here, we describe assays of C. elegans associative learning and short- and long-term associative memory. We modified an aversive olfactory learning paradigm6 to instead produce a positive response; the assay involves starving ~400 worms, then feeding the worms in the presence of the AWC neuron-sensed volatile chemoattractant butanone at a concentration that elicits a low chemotactic index (similar to Toroyama et al.7). A standard population chemotaxis assay1 tests the worms' attraction to the odorant immediately or minutes to hours after conditioning. After conditioning, wild-type animals' chemotaxis to butanone increases ~0.6 Chemotaxis Index units, its "Learning Index". Associative learning is dependent on the presence of both food and butanone during training. Pairing food and butanone for a single conditioning period ("massed training") produces short-term associative memory that lasts ~2 hours. Multiple conditioning periods with rest periods between ("spaced training") yields long-term associative memory (<40 hours), and is dependent on the cAMP Response Element Binding protein (CREB),6 a transcription factor required for long-term memory across species.8 Our protocol also includes image analysis methods for quick and accurate determination of chemotaxis indices. High-contrast images of animals on chemotaxis assay plates are captured and analyzed by worm counting software in MatLab. The software corrects for uneven background using a morphological tophat transformation.9 Otsu's method is then used to determine a threshold to separate worms from the background.10 Very small particles are removed automatically and larger non-worm regions (plate edges or agar punches) are removed by manual selection. The software then estimates the size of single worm by ignoring regions that are above a specified maximum size and taking the median size of the remaining regions. The number of worms is then estimated by dividing the total area identified as occupied by worms by the estimated size of a single worm. We have found that learning and short- and long-term memory can be distinguished, and that these processes share similar key molecules with higher organisms.6,8 Our assays can quickly test novel candidate genes or molecules that affect learning and short- or long-term memory in C. elegans that are relevant across species.
Neuroscience, Issue 49, memory, associative learning, C. elegans, chemotaxis, spaced training, behavior
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Test Samples for Optimizing STORM Super-Resolution Microscopy
Authors: Daniel J. Metcalf, Rebecca Edwards, Neelam Kumarswami, Alex E. Knight.
Institutions: National Physical Laboratory.
STORM is a recently developed super-resolution microscopy technique with up to 10 times better resolution than standard fluorescence microscopy techniques. However, as the image is acquired in a very different way than normal, by building up an image molecule-by-molecule, there are some significant challenges for users in trying to optimize their image acquisition. In order to aid this process and gain more insight into how STORM works we present the preparation of 3 test samples and the methodology of acquiring and processing STORM super-resolution images with typical resolutions of between 30-50 nm. By combining the test samples with the use of the freely available rainSTORM processing software it is possible to obtain a great deal of information about image quality and resolution. Using these metrics it is then possible to optimize the imaging procedure from the optics, to sample preparation, dye choice, buffer conditions, and image acquisition settings. We also show examples of some common problems that result in poor image quality, such as lateral drift, where the sample moves during image acquisition and density related problems resulting in the 'mislocalization' phenomenon.
Molecular Biology, Issue 79, Genetics, Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Basic Protocols, HeLa Cells, Actin Cytoskeleton, Coated Vesicles, Receptor, Epidermal Growth Factor, Actins, Fluorescence, Endocytosis, Microscopy, STORM, super-resolution microscopy, nanoscopy, cell biology, fluorescence microscopy, test samples, resolution, actin filaments, fiducial markers, epidermal growth factor, cell, imaging
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Visualizing Neuroblast Cytokinesis During C. elegans Embryogenesis
Authors: Denise Wernike, Chloe van Oostende, Alisa Piekny.
Institutions: Concordia University.
This protocol describes the use of fluorescence microscopy to image dividing cells within developing Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. In particular, this protocol focuses on how to image dividing neuroblasts, which are found underneath the epidermal cells and may be important for epidermal morphogenesis. Tissue formation is crucial for metazoan development and relies on external cues from neighboring tissues. C. elegans is an excellent model organism to study tissue morphogenesis in vivo due to its transparency and simple organization, making its tissues easy to study via microscopy. Ventral enclosure is the process where the ventral surface of the embryo is covered by a single layer of epithelial cells. This event is thought to be facilitated by the underlying neuroblasts, which provide chemical guidance cues to mediate migration of the overlying epithelial cells. However, the neuroblasts are highly proliferative and also may act as a mechanical substrate for the ventral epidermal cells. Studies using this experimental protocol could uncover the importance of intercellular communication during tissue formation, and could be used to reveal the roles of genes involved in cell division within developing tissues.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, C. elegans, morphogenesis, cytokinesis, neuroblasts, anillin, microscopy, cell division
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Using an Automated 3D-tracking System to Record Individual and Shoals of Adult Zebrafish
Authors: Hans Maaswinkel, Liqun Zhu, Wei Weng.
Institutions: xyZfish.
Like many aquatic animals, zebrafish (Danio rerio) moves in a 3D space. It is thus preferable to use a 3D recording system to study its behavior. The presented automatic video tracking system accomplishes this by using a mirror system and a calibration procedure that corrects for the considerable error introduced by the transition of light from water to air. With this system it is possible to record both single and groups of adult zebrafish. Before use, the system has to be calibrated. The system consists of three modules: Recording, Path Reconstruction, and Data Processing. The step-by-step protocols for calibration and using the three modules are presented. Depending on the experimental setup, the system can be used for testing neophobia, white aversion, social cohesion, motor impairments, novel object exploration etc. It is especially promising as a first-step tool to study the effects of drugs or mutations on basic behavioral patterns. The system provides information about vertical and horizontal distribution of the zebrafish, about the xyz-components of kinematic parameters (such as locomotion, velocity, acceleration, and turning angle) and it provides the data necessary to calculate parameters for social cohesions when testing shoals.
Behavior, Issue 82, neuroscience, Zebrafish, Danio rerio, anxiety, Shoaling, Pharmacology, 3D-tracking, MK801
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Quantitative and Automated High-throughput Genome-wide RNAi Screens in C. elegans
Authors: Barbara Squiban, Jérôme Belougne, Jonathan Ewbank, Olivier Zugasti.
Institutions: Université de la Méditerranée.
RNA interference is a powerful method to understand gene function, especially when conducted at a whole-genome scale and in a quantitative context. In C. elegans, gene function can be knocked down simply and efficiently by feeding worms with bacteria expressing a dsRNA corresponding to a specific gene 1. While the creation of libraries of RNAi clones covering most of the C. elegans genome 2,3 opened the way for true functional genomic studies (see for example 4-7), most established methods are laborious. Moy and colleagues have developed semi-automated protocols that facilitate genome-wide screens 8. The approach relies on microscopic imaging and image analysis. Here we describe an alternative protocol for a high-throughput genome-wide screen, based on robotic handling of bacterial RNAi clones, quantitative analysis using the COPAS Biosort (Union Biometrica (UBI)), and an integrated software: the MBioLIMS (Laboratory Information Management System from Modul-Bio) a technology that provides increased throughput for data management and sample tracking. The method allows screens to be conducted on solid medium plates. This is particularly important for some studies, such as those addressing host-pathogen interactions in C. elegans, since certain microbes do not efficiently infect worms in liquid culture. We show how the method can be used to quantify the importance of genes in anti-fungal innate immunity in C. elegans. In this case, the approach relies on the use of a transgenic strain carrying an epidermal infection-inducible fluorescent reporter gene, with GFP under the control of the promoter of the antimicrobial peptide gene nlp 29 and a red fluorescent reporter that is expressed constitutively in the epidermis. The latter provides an internal control for the functional integrity of the epidermis and nonspecific transgene silencing9. When control worms are infected by the fungus they fluoresce green. Knocking down by RNAi a gene required for nlp 29 expression results in diminished fluorescence after infection. Currently, this protocol allows more than 3,000 RNAi clones to be tested and analyzed per week, opening the possibility of screening the entire genome in less than 2 months.
Molecular Biology, Issue 60, C. elegans, fluorescent reporter, Biosort, LIMS, innate immunity, Drechmeria coniospora
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Automated, Quantitative Cognitive/Behavioral Screening of Mice: For Genetics, Pharmacology, Animal Cognition and Undergraduate Instruction
Authors: C. R. Gallistel, Fuat Balci, David Freestone, Aaron Kheifets, Adam King.
Institutions: Rutgers University, Koç University, New York University, Fairfield University.
We describe a high-throughput, high-volume, fully automated, live-in 24/7 behavioral testing system for assessing the effects of genetic and pharmacological manipulations on basic mechanisms of cognition and learning in mice. A standard polypropylene mouse housing tub is connected through an acrylic tube to a standard commercial mouse test box. The test box has 3 hoppers, 2 of which are connected to pellet feeders. All are internally illuminable with an LED and monitored for head entries by infrared (IR) beams. Mice live in the environment, which eliminates handling during screening. They obtain their food during two or more daily feeding periods by performing in operant (instrumental) and Pavlovian (classical) protocols, for which we have written protocol-control software and quasi-real-time data analysis and graphing software. The data analysis and graphing routines are written in a MATLAB-based language created to simplify greatly the analysis of large time-stamped behavioral and physiological event records and to preserve a full data trail from raw data through all intermediate analyses to the published graphs and statistics within a single data structure. The data-analysis code harvests the data several times a day and subjects it to statistical and graphical analyses, which are automatically stored in the "cloud" and on in-lab computers. Thus, the progress of individual mice is visualized and quantified daily. The data-analysis code talks to the protocol-control code, permitting the automated advance from protocol to protocol of individual subjects. The behavioral protocols implemented are matching, autoshaping, timed hopper-switching, risk assessment in timed hopper-switching, impulsivity measurement, and the circadian anticipation of food availability. Open-source protocol-control and data-analysis code makes the addition of new protocols simple. Eight test environments fit in a 48 in x 24 in x 78 in cabinet; two such cabinets (16 environments) may be controlled by one computer.
Behavior, Issue 84, genetics, cognitive mechanisms, behavioral screening, learning, memory, timing
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Simultaneous Multicolor Imaging of Biological Structures with Fluorescence Photoactivation Localization Microscopy
Authors: Nikki M. Curthoys, Michael J. Mlodzianoski, Dahan Kim, Samuel T. Hess.
Institutions: University of Maine.
Localization-based super resolution microscopy can be applied to obtain a spatial map (image) of the distribution of individual fluorescently labeled single molecules within a sample with a spatial resolution of tens of nanometers. Using either photoactivatable (PAFP) or photoswitchable (PSFP) fluorescent proteins fused to proteins of interest, or organic dyes conjugated to antibodies or other molecules of interest, fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) can simultaneously image multiple species of molecules within single cells. By using the following approach, populations of large numbers (thousands to hundreds of thousands) of individual molecules are imaged in single cells and localized with a precision of ~10-30 nm. Data obtained can be applied to understanding the nanoscale spatial distributions of multiple protein types within a cell. One primary advantage of this technique is the dramatic increase in spatial resolution: while diffraction limits resolution to ~200-250 nm in conventional light microscopy, FPALM can image length scales more than an order of magnitude smaller. As many biological hypotheses concern the spatial relationships among different biomolecules, the improved resolution of FPALM can provide insight into questions of cellular organization which have previously been inaccessible to conventional fluorescence microscopy. In addition to detailing the methods for sample preparation and data acquisition, we here describe the optical setup for FPALM. One additional consideration for researchers wishing to do super-resolution microscopy is cost: in-house setups are significantly cheaper than most commercially available imaging machines. Limitations of this technique include the need for optimizing the labeling of molecules of interest within cell samples, and the need for post-processing software to visualize results. We here describe the use of PAFP and PSFP expression to image two protein species in fixed cells. Extension of the technique to living cells is also described.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Microscopy, Super-resolution imaging, Multicolor, single molecule, FPALM, Localization microscopy, fluorescent proteins
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Acquiring Fluorescence Time-lapse Movies of Budding Yeast and Analyzing Single-cell Dynamics using GRAFTS
Authors: Christopher J. Zopf, Narendra Maheshri.
Institutions: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Fluorescence time-lapse microscopy has become a powerful tool in the study of many biological processes at the single-cell level. In particular, movies depicting the temporal dependence of gene expression provide insight into the dynamics of its regulation; however, there are many technical challenges to obtaining and analyzing fluorescence movies of single cells. We describe here a simple protocol using a commercially available microfluidic culture device to generate such data, and a MATLAB-based, graphical user interface (GUI) -based software package to quantify the fluorescence images. The software segments and tracks cells, enables the user to visually curate errors in the data, and automatically assigns lineage and division times. The GUI further analyzes the time series to produce whole cell traces as well as their first and second time derivatives. While the software was designed for S. cerevisiae, its modularity and versatility should allow it to serve as a platform for studying other cell types with few modifications.
Microbiology, Issue 77, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Biophysics, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Microscopy, Fluorescence, Cell Biology, microscopy/fluorescence and time-lapse, budding yeast, gene expression dynamics, segmentation, lineage tracking, image tracking, software, yeast, cells, imaging
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From Voxels to Knowledge: A Practical Guide to the Segmentation of Complex Electron Microscopy 3D-Data
Authors: Wen-Ting Tsai, Ahmed Hassan, Purbasha Sarkar, Joaquin Correa, Zoltan Metlagel, Danielle M. Jorgens, Manfred Auer.
Institutions: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Modern 3D electron microscopy approaches have recently allowed unprecedented insight into the 3D ultrastructural organization of cells and tissues, enabling the visualization of large macromolecular machines, such as adhesion complexes, as well as higher-order structures, such as the cytoskeleton and cellular organelles in their respective cell and tissue context. Given the inherent complexity of cellular volumes, it is essential to first extract the features of interest in order to allow visualization, quantification, and therefore comprehension of their 3D organization. Each data set is defined by distinct characteristics, e.g., signal-to-noise ratio, crispness (sharpness) of the data, heterogeneity of its features, crowdedness of features, presence or absence of characteristic shapes that allow for easy identification, and the percentage of the entire volume that a specific region of interest occupies. All these characteristics need to be considered when deciding on which approach to take for segmentation. The six different 3D ultrastructural data sets presented were obtained by three different imaging approaches: resin embedded stained electron tomography, focused ion beam- and serial block face- scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM, SBF-SEM) of mildly stained and heavily stained samples, respectively. For these data sets, four different segmentation approaches have been applied: (1) fully manual model building followed solely by visualization of the model, (2) manual tracing segmentation of the data followed by surface rendering, (3) semi-automated approaches followed by surface rendering, or (4) automated custom-designed segmentation algorithms followed by surface rendering and quantitative analysis. Depending on the combination of data set characteristics, it was found that typically one of these four categorical approaches outperforms the others, but depending on the exact sequence of criteria, more than one approach may be successful. Based on these data, we propose a triage scheme that categorizes both objective data set characteristics and subjective personal criteria for the analysis of the different data sets.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, 3D electron microscopy, feature extraction, segmentation, image analysis, reconstruction, manual tracing, thresholding
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Video Bioinformatics Analysis of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Colony Growth
Authors: Sabrina Lin, Shawn Fonteno, Shruthi Satish, Bir Bhanu, Prue Talbot.
Institutions: University of California, University of California, University of California, University of California.
Because video data are complex and are comprised of many images, mining information from video material is difficult to do without the aid of computer software. Video bioinformatics is a powerful quantitative approach for extracting spatio-temporal data from video images using computer software to perform dating mining and analysis. In this article, we introduce a video bioinformatics method for quantifying the growth of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) by analyzing time-lapse videos collected in a Nikon BioStation CT incubator equipped with a camera for video imaging. In our experiments, hESC colonies that were attached to Matrigel were filmed for 48 hours in the BioStation CT. To determine the rate of growth of these colonies, recipes were developed using CL-Quant software which enables users to extract various types of data from video images. To accurately evaluate colony growth, three recipes were created. The first segmented the image into the colony and background, the second enhanced the image to define colonies throughout the video sequence accurately, and the third measured the number of pixels in the colony over time. The three recipes were run in sequence on video data collected in a BioStation CT to analyze the rate of growth of individual hESC colonies over 48 hours. To verify the truthfulness of the CL-Quant recipes, the same data were analyzed manually using Adobe Photoshop software. When the data obtained using the CL-Quant recipes and Photoshop were compared, results were virtually identical, indicating the CL-Quant recipes were truthful. The method described here could be applied to any video data to measure growth rates of hESC or other cells that grow in colonies. In addition, other video bioinformatics recipes can be developed in the future for other cell processes such as migration, apoptosis, and cell adhesion.
Cellular Biology, Issue 39, hESC, matrigel, stem cells, video bioinformatics, colony, growth
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Time-lapse Microscopy of Early Embryogenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans
Authors: Lynn Boyd, Connie Hajjar, Kevin O'Connell.
Institutions: University of Alabama in Huntsville, NIDDK-National Institutes of Health.
Caenorhabditis elegans has often been used as a model system in studies of early developmental processes. The transparency of the embryos, the genetic resources, and the relative ease of transformation are qualities that make C. elegans an excellent model for early embryogenesis. Laser-based confocal microscopy and fluorescently labeled tags allow researchers to follow specific cellular structures and proteins in the developing embryo. For example, one can follow specific organelles, such as lysosomes or mitochondria, using fluorescently labeled dyes. These dyes can be delivered to the early embryo by means of microinjection into the adult gonad. Also, the localization of specific proteins can be followed using fluorescent protein tags. Examples are presented here demonstrating the use of a fluorescent lysosomal dye as well as fluorescently tagged histone and ubiquitin proteins. The labeled histone is used to visualize the DNA and thus identify the stage of the cell cycle. GFP-tagged ubiquitin reveals the dynamics of ubiquitinated vesicles in the early embryo. Observations of labeled lysosomes and GFP:: ubiquitin can be used to determine if there is colocalization between ubiquitinated vesicles and lysosomes. A technique for the microinjection of the lysosomal dye is presented. Techniques for generating transgenenic strains are presented elsewhere (1, 2). For imaging, embryos are cut out of adult hermaphrodite nematodes and mounted onto 2% agarose pads followed by time-lapse microscopy on a standard laser scanning confocal microscope or a spinning disk confocal microscope. This methodology provides for the high resolution visualization of early embryogenesis.
Developmental Biology, Issue 54, Live embryo imaging, fertilization, meiosis, nematode, fluorescent protein, lysotracker, Caenorhabditis elegans, C. elegans
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Imaging C. elegans Embryos using an Epifluorescent Microscope and Open Source Software
Authors: Koen J. C. Verbrugghe, Raymond C. Chan.
Institutions: University of Michigan.
Cellular processes, such as chromosome assembly, segregation and cytokinesis,are inherently dynamic. Time-lapse imaging of living cells, using fluorescent-labeled reporter proteins or differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy, allows for the examination of the temporal progression of these dynamic events which is otherwise inferred from analysis of fixed samples1,2. Moreover, the study of the developmental regulations of cellular processes necessitates conducting time-lapse experiments on an intact organism during development. The Caenorhabiditis elegans embryo is light-transparent and has a rapid, invariant developmental program with a known cell lineage3, thus providing an ideal experiment model for studying questions in cell biology4,5and development6-9. C. elegans is amendable to genetic manipulation by forward genetics (based on random mutagenesis10,11) and reverse genetics to target specific genes (based on RNAi-mediated interference and targeted mutagenesis12-15). In addition, transgenic animals can be readily created to express fluorescently tagged proteins or reporters16,17. These traits combine to make it easy to identify the genetic pathways regulating fundamental cellular and developmental processes in vivo18-21. In this protocol we present methods for live imaging of C. elegans embryos using DIC optics or GFP fluorescence on a compound epifluorescent microscope. We demonstrate the ease with which readily available microscopes, typically used for fixed sample imaging, can also be applied for time-lapse analysis using open-source software to automate the imaging process.
Basic Protocols, Issue 49, Cellular Biology, Caenorhabditis elegans, microscopy, development
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Quantitative Locomotion Study of Freely Swimming Micro-organisms Using Laser Diffraction
Authors: Jenny Magnes, Kathleen Susman, Rebecca Eells.
Institutions: Vassar College, Vassar College.
Soil and aquatic microscopic organisms live and behave in a complex three-dimensional environment. Most studies of microscopic organism behavior, in contrast, have been conducted using microscope-based approaches, which limit the movement and behavior to a narrow, nearly two-dimensional focal field.1 We present a novel analytical approach that provides real-time analysis of freely swimming C. elegans in a cuvette without dependence on microscope-based equipment. This approach consists of tracking the temporal periodicity of diffraction patterns generated by directing laser light through the cuvette. We measure oscillation frequencies for freely swimming nematodes. Analysis of the far-field diffraction patterns reveals clues about the waveforms of the nematodes. Diffraction is the process of light bending around an object. In this case light is diffracted by the organisms. The light waves interfere and can form a diffraction pattern. A far-field, or Fraunhofer, diffraction pattern is formed if the screen-to-object distance is much larger than the diffracting object. In this case, the diffraction pattern can be calculated (modeled) using a Fourier transform.2 C. elegans are free-living soil-dwelling nematodes that navigate in three dimensions. They move both on a solid matrix like soil or agar in a sinusoidal locomotory pattern called crawling and in liquid in a different pattern called swimming.3 The roles played by sensory information provided by mechanosensory, chemosensory, and thermosensory cells that govern plastic changes in locomotory patterns and switches in patterns are only beginning to be elucidated.4 We describe an optical approach to measuring nematode locomotion in three dimensions that does not require a microscope and will enable us to begin to explore the complexities of nematode locomotion under different conditions.
Bioengineering, Issue 68, Caenorhabditis elegans, C. elegans, diffraction, video analysis, freely swimming, autocorrelation, laser, locomotion
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Microfluidic-based Electrotaxis for On-demand Quantitative Analysis of Caenorhabditis elegans' Locomotion
Authors: Justin Tong, Pouya Rezai, Sangeena Salam, P. Ravi Selvaganapathy, Bhagwati P. Gupta.
Institutions: McMaster University , McMaster University .
The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a versatile model organism for biomedical research because of its conservation of disease-related genes and pathways as well as its ease of cultivation. Several C. elegans disease models have been reported, including neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease (PD), which involves the degeneration of dopaminergic (DA) neurons 1. Both transgenes and neurotoxic chemicals have been used to induce DA neurodegeneration and consequent movement defects in worms, allowing for investigations into the basis of neurodegeneration and screens for neuroprotective genes and compounds 2,3. Screens in lower eukaryotes like C. elegans provide an efficient and economical means to identify compounds and genes affecting neuronal signaling. Conventional screens are typically performed manually and scored by visual inspection; consequently, they are time-consuming and prone to human errors. Additionally, most focus on cellular level analysis while ignoring locomotion, which is an especially important parameter for movement disorders. We have developed a novel microfluidic screening system (Figure 1) that controls and quantifies C. elegans' locomotion using electric field stimuli inside microchannels. We have shown that a Direct Current (DC) field can robustly induce on-demand locomotion towards the cathode ("electrotaxis") 4. Reversing the field's polarity causes the worm to quickly reverse its direction as well. We have also shown that defects in dopaminergic and other sensory neurons alter the swimming response 5. Therefore, abnormalities in neuronal signaling can be determined using locomotion as a read-out. The movement response can be accurately quantified using a range of parameters such as swimming speed, body bending frequency and reversal time. Our work has revealed that the electrotactic response varies with age. Specifically, young adults respond to a lower range of electric fields and move faster compared to larvae 4. These findings led us to design a new microfluidic device to passively sort worms by age and phenotype 6. We have also tested the response of worms to pulsed DC and Alternating Current (AC) electric fields. Pulsed DC fields of various duty cycles effectively generated electrotaxis in both C. elegans and its cousin C. briggsae 7. In another experiment, symmetrical AC fields with frequencies ranging from 1 Hz to 3 KHz immobilized worms inside the channel 8. Implementation of the electric field in a microfluidic environment enables rapid and automated execution of the electrotaxis assay. This approach promises to facilitate high-throughput genetic and chemical screens for factors affecting neuronal function and viability.
Bioengineering, Issue 75, Behavior, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Biophysics, Mechanical Engineering, Microfluidics, Caenorhabditis elegans, C. elegans, Neurotoxicity Syndromes, Drug Toxicity, Neurotoxicity Syndromes, Biological Agents, High-Throughput Screening Assays, Toxicity Tests, Locomotion, Nervous System Diseases, electrotaxis, locomotion, swimming, movement, neurodegeneration, neuronal signaling, dopamine, neurons, animal model
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Time-lapse Imaging of Mitosis After siRNA Transfection
Authors: Douglas R. Mackay, Katharine S. Ullman, Christopher K. Rodesch.
Institutions: University of Utah, University of Utah.
Changes in cellular organization and chromosome dynamics that occur during mitosis are tightly coordinated to ensure accurate inheritance of genomic and cellular content. Hallmark events of mitosis, such as chromosome movement, can be readily tracked on an individual cell basis using time-lapse fluorescence microscopy of mammalian cell lines expressing specific GFP-tagged proteins. In combination with RNAi-based depletion, this can be a powerful method for pinpointing the stage(s) of mitosis where defects occur after levels of a particular protein have been lowered. In this protocol, we present a basic method for assessing the effect of depleting a potential mitotic regulatory protein on the timing of mitosis. Cells are transfected with siRNA, placed in a stage-top incubation chamber, and imaged using an automated fluorescence microscope. We describe how to use software to set up a time-lapse experiment, how to process the image sequences to make either still-image montages or movies, and how to quantify and analyze the timing of mitotic stages using a cell-line expressing mCherry-tagged histone H2B. Finally, we discuss important considerations for designing a time-lapse experiment. This strategy is complementary to other approaches and offers the advantages of 1) sensitivity to changes in kinetics that might not be observed when looking at cells as a population and 2) analysis of mitosis without the need to synchronize the cell cycle using drug treatments. The visual information from such imaging experiments not only allows the sub-stages of mitosis to be assessed, but can also provide unexpected insight that would not be apparent from cell cycle analysis by FACS.
Cellular Biology, Issue 40, microscopy, live imaging, mitosis, transfection, siRNA
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Using RNA-mediated Interference Feeding Strategy to Screen for Genes Involved in Body Size Regulation in the Nematode C. elegans
Authors: Jun Liang, Sheng Xiong, Cathy Savage-Dunn.
Institutions: Borough of Manhattan Community College, City Universtiy of New York (CUNY), Queens College, The City University of New York (CUNY), Queens College, The City University of New York (CUNY).
Double-strand RNA-mediated interference (RNAi) is an effective strategy to knock down target gene expression1-3. It has been applied to many model systems including plants, invertebrates and vertebrates. There are various methods to achieve RNAi in vivo4,5. For example, the target gene may be transformed into an RNAi vector, and then either permanently or transiently transformed into cell lines or primary cells to achieve gene knockdown effects; alternatively synthesized double-strand oligonucleotides from specific target genes (RNAi oligos) may be transiently transformed into cell lines or primary cells to silence target genes; or synthesized double-strand RNA molecules may be microinjected into an organism. Since the nematode C. elegans uses bacteria as a food source, feeding the animals with bacteria expressing double-strand RNA against target genes provides a viable strategy6. Here we present an RNAi feeding method to score body size phenotype. Body size in C. elegans is regulated primarily by the TGF- β - like ligand DBL-1, so this assay is appropriate for identification of TGF-β signaling components7. We used different strains including two RNAi hypersensitive strains to repeat the RNAi feeding experiments. Our results showed that rrf-3 strain gave us the best expected RNAi phenotype. The method is easy to perform, reproducible, and easily quantified. Furthermore, our protocol minimizes the use of specialized equipment, so it is suitable for smaller laboratories or those at predominantly undergraduate institutions.
Developmental Biology, Issue 72, Genetics, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Basic Protocols, RNAi feeding technique, genetic screen, TGF-beta, body size, C. elegans, Caenorhabditis elegans, RNA-mediated Interference, RNAi, RNA, DNA, gene expression knock down, animal model
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C. elegans Tracking and Behavioral Measurement
Authors: Jirapat Likitlersuang, Greg Stephens, Konstantine Palanski, William S. Ryu.
Institutions: University of Toronto, Vrije Universiteit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, University of Toronto.
We have developed instrumentation, image processing, and data analysis techniques to quantify the locomotory behavior of C. elegans as it crawls on the surface of an agar plate. For the study of the genetic, biochemical, and neuronal basis of behavior, C. elegans is an ideal organism because it is genetically tractable, amenable to microscopy, and shows a number of complex behaviors, including taxis, learning, and social interaction1,2. Behavioral analysis based on tracking the movements of worms as they crawl on agar plates have been particularly useful in the study of sensory behavior3, locomotion4, and general mutational phenotyping5. Our system works by moving the camera and illumination system as the worms crawls on a stationary agar plate, which ensures no mechanical stimulus is transmitted to the worm. Our tracking system is easy to use and includes a semi-automatic calibration feature. A challenge of all video tracking systems is that it generates an enormous amount of data that is intrinsically high dimensional. Our image processing and data analysis programs deal with this challenge by reducing the worms shape into a set of independent components, which comprehensively reconstruct the worms behavior as a function of only 3-4 dimensions6,7. As an example of the process we show that the worm enters and exits its reversal state in a phase specific manner.
Neuroscience, Issue 69, Physics, Biophysics, Anatomy, Microscopy, Ethology, Behavior, Machine Vision, C. elegans, animal model
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JoVE Visualize is a tool created to match the last 5 years of PubMed publications to methods in JoVE's video library.

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