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Automatically tracking feeding behavior in populations of foraging C. elegans


Bonnard, Elsa; Liu, Jun; Zjacic, Nicolina; Alvarez, Luis; Scholz, Monika (2022). Automatically tracking feeding behavior in populations of foraging C. elegans. eLife, 11:e77252.

Abstract

Caenorhabditis elegans feeds on bacteria and other small microorganisms which it ingests using its pharynx, a neuromuscular pump. Currently, measuring feeding behavior requires tracking a single animal, indirectly estimating food intake from population-level metrics, or using restrained animals. To enable large throughput feeding measurements of unrestrained, crawling worms on agarose plates at a single worm resolution, we developed an imaging protocol and a complementary image analysis tool called PharaGlow. We image up to 50 unrestrained crawling worms simultaneously and extract locomotion and feeding behaviors. We demonstrate the tool’s robustness and high-throughput capabilities by measuring feeding in different use-case scenarios, such as through development, with genetic and chemical perturbations that result in faster and slower pumping, and in the presence or absence of food. Finally, we demonstrate that our tool is capable of long-term imaging by showing behavioral dynamics of mating animals and worms with different genetic backgrounds. The low-resolution fluorescence microscopes required are readily available in C. elegans laboratories, and in combination with our python-based analysis workflow makes this methodology easily accessible. PharaGlow therefore enables the observation and analysis of the temporal dynamics of feeding and locomotory behaviors with high-throughput and precision in a user-friendly system.

Abstract

Caenorhabditis elegans feeds on bacteria and other small microorganisms which it ingests using its pharynx, a neuromuscular pump. Currently, measuring feeding behavior requires tracking a single animal, indirectly estimating food intake from population-level metrics, or using restrained animals. To enable large throughput feeding measurements of unrestrained, crawling worms on agarose plates at a single worm resolution, we developed an imaging protocol and a complementary image analysis tool called PharaGlow. We image up to 50 unrestrained crawling worms simultaneously and extract locomotion and feeding behaviors. We demonstrate the tool’s robustness and high-throughput capabilities by measuring feeding in different use-case scenarios, such as through development, with genetic and chemical perturbations that result in faster and slower pumping, and in the presence or absence of food. Finally, we demonstrate that our tool is capable of long-term imaging by showing behavioral dynamics of mating animals and worms with different genetic backgrounds. The low-resolution fluorescence microscopes required are readily available in C. elegans laboratories, and in combination with our python-based analysis workflow makes this methodology easily accessible. PharaGlow therefore enables the observation and analysis of the temporal dynamics of feeding and locomotory behaviors with high-throughput and precision in a user-friendly system.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Medical Genetics
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Neuroscience
Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Life Sciences > General Immunology and Microbiology
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Immunology and Microbiology, General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Medicine, General Neuroscience, C. elegans, behavior tracking, computational biology, development, feeding, foraging, neuroscience, pumping, systems biology
Language:English
Date:9 September 2022
Deposited On:12 Apr 2023 10:56
Last Modified:29 Apr 2024 01:37
Publisher:eLife Sciences Publications Ltd.
ISSN:2050-084X
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.7554/elife.77252
PubMed ID:36083280
Other Identification Number:PMCID: PMC9462848
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
  • Content: Supplemental Material
  • Language: English
  • Description: Figures
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)