The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is among the most common model systems used in aging research owing to its simple and inexpensive culture techniques, rapid reproduction cycle (~3 days), short lifespan (~3 weeks), and numerous available tools for genetic manipulation and molecular analysis. The most common approach for conducting aging studies in C. elegans, including survival analysis, involves culturing populations of tens to hundreds of animals together on solid nematode growth media (NGM) in Petri plates. While this approach gathers data on a population of animals, most protocols do not track individual animals over time. Presented here is an optimized protocol for the long-term culturing of individual animals on microfabricated polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) devices called WorMotels. Each device allows up to 240 animals to be cultured in small wells containing NGM, with each well isolated by a copper sulfate-containing moat that prevents the animals from fleeing. Building on the original WorMotel description, this paper provides a detailed protocol for molding, preparing, and populating each device, with descriptions of common technical complications and advice for troubleshooting. Within this protocol are techniques for the consistent loading of small-volume NGM, the consistent drying of both the NGM and bacterial food, options for delivering pharmacological interventions, instructions for and practical limitations to reusing PDMS devices, and tips for minimizing desiccation, even in low-humidity environments. This technique allows the longitudinal monitoring of various physiological parameters, including stimulated activity, unstimulated activity, body size, movement geometry, healthspan, and survival, in an environment similar to the standard technique for group culture on solid media in Petri plates. This method is compatible with high-throughput data collection when used in conjunction with automated microscopy and analysis software. Finally, the limitations of this technique are discussed, as well as a comparison of this approach to a recently developed method that uses microtrays to culture isolated nematodes on solid media.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Neuroscience
- General Chemical Engineering
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Immunology and Microbiology