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Quantifying Tissue-Specific Proteostatic Decline in Caenorhabditis elegans

Maria I. Lazaro-Pena1, Adam B. Cornwell1, Andrew V. Samuelson1


The ability to maintain proper function and folding of the proteome (protein homeostasis) declines during normal aging, facilitating the onset of a growing number of age-associated diseases. For instance, proteins with polyglutamine expansions are prone to aggregation, as exemplified with the huntingtin protein and concomitant onset of Huntington’s disease. The age-associated deterioration of the proteome has been widely studied through the use of transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans expressing polyQ repeats fused to a yellow fluorescent protein (YFP). This polyQ::YFP transgenic animal model facilitates the direct quantification of the age-associated decline of the proteome through imaging the progressive formation of fluorescent foci (i.e., protein aggregates) and subsequent onset of locomotion defects that develop as a result of the collapse of the proteome. Further, the expression of the polyQ::YFP transgene can be driven by tissue-specific promoters, allowing the assessment of proteostasis across tissues in the context of an intact multicellular organism. This model is highly amenable to genetic analysis, thus providing an approach to quantify aging that is complementary to lifespan assays. We describe how to accurately measure polyQ::YFP foci formation within either neurons or body wall muscle during aging, and the subsequent onset of behavioral defects. Next, we highlight how these approaches can be adapted for higher throughput, and potential future applications using other emerging strategies for C. elegans genetic analysis.

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