Concept: Caenorhabditis elegans
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published almost 4 years ago
The ability to acquire large-scale recordings of neuronal activity in awake and unrestrained animals is needed to provide new insights into how populations of neurons generate animal behavior. We present an instrument capable of recording intracellular calcium transients from the majority of neurons in the head of a freely behaving Caenorhabditis elegans with cellular resolution while simultaneously recording the animal’s position, posture, and locomotion. This instrument provides whole-brain imaging with cellular resolution in an unrestrained and behaving animal. We use spinning-disk confocal microscopy to capture 3D volumetric fluorescent images of neurons expressing the calcium indicator GCaMP6s at 6 head-volumes/s. A suite of three cameras monitor neuronal fluorescence and the animal’s position and orientation. Custom software tracks the 3D position of the animal’s head in real time and two feedback loops adjust a motorized stage and objective to keep the animal’s head within the field of view as the animal roams freely. We observe calcium transients from up to 77 neurons for over 4 min and correlate this activity with the animal’s behavior. We characterize noise in the system due to animal motion and show that, across worms, multiple neurons show significant correlations with modes of behavior corresponding to forward, backward, and turning locomotion.
Many organisms spanning from bacteria to mammals orient to the earth’s magnetic field. For a few animals, central neurons responsive to earth-strength magnetic fields have been identified; however, magnetosensory neurons have yet to be identified in any animal. We show that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans orients to the earth’s magnetic field during vertical burrowing migrations. Well-fed worms migrated up, while starved worms migrated down. Populations isolated from around the world, migrated at angles to the magnetic vector that would optimize vertical translation in their native soil, with northern- and southern-hemisphere worms displaying opposite migratory preferences. Magnetic orientation and vertical migrations required the TAX-4 cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channel in the AFD sensory neuron pair. Calcium imaging showed that these neurons respond to magnetic fields even without synaptic input. C. elegans may have adapted magnetic orientation to simplify their vertical burrowing migration by reducing the orientation task from three dimensions to one.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published almost 3 years ago
The self-assembly of α-synuclein is closely associated with Parkinson’s disease and related syndromes. We show that squalamine, a natural product with known anticancer and antiviral activity, dramatically affects α-synuclein aggregation in vitro and in vivo. We elucidate the mechanism of action of squalamine by investigating its interaction with lipid vesicles, which are known to stimulate nucleation, and find that this compound displaces α-synuclein from the surfaces of such vesicles, thereby blocking the first steps in its aggregation process. We also show that squalamine almost completely suppresses the toxicity of α-synuclein oligomers in human neuroblastoma cells by inhibiting their interactions with lipid membranes. We further examine the effects of squalamine in a Caenorhabditis elegans strain overexpressing α-synuclein, observing a dramatic reduction of α-synuclein aggregation and an almost complete elimination of muscle paralysis. These findings suggest that squalamine could be a means of therapeutic intervention in Parkinson’s disease and related conditions.
Misfolded alpha-synuclein (AS) and other neurodegenerative disorder proteins display prion-like transmission of protein aggregation. Factors responsible for the initiation of AS aggregation are unknown. To evaluate the role of amyloid proteins made by the microbiota we exposed aged rats and transgenic C. elegans to E. coli producing the extracellular bacterial amyloid protein curli. Rats exposed to curli-producing bacteria displayed increased neuronal AS deposition in both gut and brain and enhanced microgliosis and astrogliosis compared to rats exposed to either mutant bacteria unable to synthesize curli, or to vehicle alone. Animals exposed to curli producing bacteria also had more expression of TLR2, IL-6 and TNF in the brain than the other two groups. There were no differences among the rat groups in survival, body weight, inflammation in the mouth, retina, kidneys or gut epithelia, and circulating cytokine levels. AS-expressing C. elegans fed on curli-producing bacteria also had enhanced AS aggregation. These results suggest that bacterial amyloid functions as a trigger to initiate AS aggregation through cross-seeding and also primes responses of the innate immune system.
Behavioral output of neural networks depends on a delicate balance between excitatory and inhibitory synaptic connections. However, it is not known whether network formation and stability is constrained by the sign of synaptic connections between neurons within the network. Here we show that switching the sign of a synapse within a neural circuit can reverse the behavioral output. The inhibitory tyramine-gated chloride channel, LGC-55, induces head relaxation and inhibits forward locomotion during the Caenorhabditis elegans escape response. We switched the ion selectivity of an inhibitory LGC-55 anion channel to an excitatory LGC-55 cation channel. The engineered cation channel is properly trafficked in the native neural circuit and results in behavioral responses that are opposite to those produced by activation of the LGC-55 anion channel. Our findings indicate that switches in ion selectivity of ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs) do not affect network connectivity or stability and may provide an evolutionary and a synthetic mechanism to change behavior.
Cephalopoda are a class of Mollusca species found in all the world’s oceans. They are an important model organism in neurobiology. Unfortunately, the lack of neuronal molecular sequences, such as ESTs, transcriptomic or genomic information, has limited the development of molecular neurobiology research in this unique model organism.
Elucidation of the biological role of linker histone (H1) and heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) in mammals has been difficult owing to the existence of a least 11 distinct H1 and three HP1 subtypes in mice. Caenorhabditis elegans possesses two HP1 homologues (HPL-1 and HPL-2) and eight H1 variants. Remarkably, one of eight H1 variants, HIS-24, is important for C. elegans development. Therefore we decided to analyse in parallel the transcriptional profiles of HIS-24, HPL-1/-2 deficient animals, and their phenotype, since hpl-1, hpl-2, and his-24 deficient nematodes are viable. Global transcriptional analysis of the double and triple mutants revealed that HPL proteins and HIS-24 play gene-specific roles, rather than a general repressive function. We showed that HIS-24 acts synergistically with HPL to allow normal reproduction, somatic gonad development, and vulval cell fate decision. Furthermore, the hpl-2; his-24 double mutant animals displayed abnormal development of the male tail and ectopic expression of C. elegans HOM-C/Hox genes (egl-5 and mab-5), which are involved in the developmental patterning of male mating structures. We found that HPL-2 and the methylated form of HIS-24 specifically interact with the histone H3 K27 region in the trimethylated state, and HIS-24 associates with the egl-5 and mab-5 genes. Our results establish the interplay between HPL-1/-2 and HIS-24 proteins in the regulation of positional identity in C. elegans males.
During embryonic development, a complex organism is formed from a single starting cell. These processes of growth and differentiation are driven by large transcriptional changes, which are following the expression and activity of transcription factors (TFs). This study sought to compare TF expression during embryonic development in a diverse group of metazoan animals: representatives of vertebrates (Danio rerio, Xenopus tropicalis), a chordate (Ciona intestinalis) and invertebrate phyla such as insects (Drosophila melanogaster, Anopheles gambiae) and nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans) were sampled, The different species showed overall very similar TF expression patterns, with TF expression increasing during the initial stages of development. C2H2 zinc finger TFs were over-represented and Homeobox TFs were under-represented in the early stages in all species. We further clustered TFs for each species based on their quantitative temporal expression profiles. This showed very similar TF expression trends in development in vertebrate and insect species. However, analysis of the expression of orthologous pairs between more closely related species showed that expression of most individual TFs is not conserved, following the general model of duplication and diversification. The degree of similarity between TF expression between Xenopus tropicalis and Danio rerio followed the hourglass model, with the greatest similarity occuring during the early tailbud stage in Xenopus tropicalis and the late segmentation stage in Danio rerio. However, for Drosophila melanogaster and Anopheles gambiae there were two periods of high TF transcriptome similarity, one during the Arthropod phylotypic stage at 8-10 hours into Drosophila development and the other later at 16-18 hours into Drosophila development.
Oxidative stress has long been associated with aging and has recently been linked to psychiatric disorders, including psychosis and depression. We identified multiple antipsychotics and antidepressants that extend Caenorhabditis elegans lifespan and protect the animal from oxidative stress. Here, we report that atypical antidepressants activate a neuronal mechanism that regulates the response to oxidative stress throughout the animal. While the activation of the oxidative stress response by atypical antidepressants depends on synaptic transmission, the activation by reactive oxygen species does not. Lifespan extension by atypical antidepressants depends on the neuronal oxidative stress response activation mechanism. Neuronal regulation of the oxidative stress response is likely to have evolved as a survival mechanism to protect the organism from oxidative stress, upon detection of adverse or dangerous conditions by the nervous system.
- WormBook : the online review of C. elegans biology
- Published over 4 years ago
A little over 50 years ago, Sydney Brenner had the foresight to develop the nematode (round worm) Caenorhabditis elegans as a genetic model for understanding questions of developmental biology and neurobiology. Over time, research on C. elegans has expanded to explore a wealth of diverse areas in modern biology including studies of the basic functions and interactions of eukaryotic cells, host-parasite interactions, and evolution. C. elegans has also become an important organism in which to study processes that go awry in human diseases. This primer introduces the organism and the many features that make it an outstanding experimental system, including its small size, rapid life cycle, transparency, and well-annotated genome. We survey the basic anatomical features, common technical approaches, and important discoveries in C. elegans research. Key to studying C. elegans has been the ability to address biological problems genetically, using both forward and reverse genetics, both at the level of the entire organism and at the level of the single, identified cell. These possibilities make C. elegans useful not only in research laboratories, but also in the classroom where it can be used to excite students who actually can see what is happening inside live cells and tissues.