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Olfactory behavior of swimming C. elegans analyzed by measuring motile responses to temporal variations of odorants.

Authors
  • Luo, Linjiao
  • Gabel, Christopher V
  • Ha, Heon-Ick
  • Zhang, Yun
  • Samuel, Aravinthan D T
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of neurophysiology
Publication Date
May 01, 2008
Volume
99
Issue
5
Pages
2617–2625
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1152/jn.00053.2008
PMID: 18367700
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Caenorhabditis elegans responds to chemical cues using a small number of chemosensory neurons that detect a large variety of molecules in its environment. During chemotaxis, C. elegans biases its migration in spatial chemical gradients by lengthening (/shortening) periods of forward movement when it happens to be moving toward (/away) from preferred locations. In classical assays of chemotactic behavior, a group of crawling worms is placed on an agar plate containing a point source of chemical, the group is allowed to navigate for a period of time, and aggregation of worms near the source is quantified. Here we show that swimming worms exhibit acute motile responses to temporal variations of odor in their surrounding environment, allowing our development of an automated assay of chemotactic behavior with single-animal resolution. By placing individual worms in small microdroplets and quantifying their movements as they respond to the addition and removal of odorized airstreams, we show that the sensorimotor phenotypes of swimming worms (wild-type behavior, the effects of certain mutations, and the effects of laser ablation of specific olfactory neurons) are consistent with aggregation phenotypes previously obtained in crawling assays. The microdroplet swimming assay has certain advantages over crawling assays, including flexibility and precision in defining the stimulus waveform and automated quantification of motor response during stimulus presentation. In this study, we use the microdroplet assay to quantify the temporal dynamics of the olfactory response, the sensitivity to odorant concentration, combinations, and gradients, and the contribution of specific olfactory neurons to overall behavior.

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