Multi-well imaging of development and behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans

Chih Chieh Jay Yu, David M. Raizen, Christopher Fang-Yen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is widely used as a model for understanding the neuronal and genetic bases of behavior. Recent studies have required longitudinal assessment of individual animal's behavior over extended periods. New method: Here we present a technique for automated monitoring of multiple worms for several days. Our method uses an array of plano-concave glass wells containing standard agar media. The concave well geometry allows worms to be imaged even at the edge of the agar surface and prevents them from burrowing under the agar. We transfer one worm or embryo into each well, and perform imaging of the array of wells using a single camera. Machine vision software is used to quantify size, activity, and/or fluorescence of each worm over time. Results: We demonstrate the utility of our method in two applications: (1) quantifying behavioral quiescence and developmental rate in wild-type and mutant animals, and (2) characterizing differences in mating behavior between two C. elegans strains. Comparison with existing method(s): Current techniques for tracking behavior in identified worms are generally restricted to imaging either single animals or have not been shown to work with arbitrary developmental stages; many are also technically complex. Our system works with up to 24 animals of any stages and is technically simple. Conclusions: Our multi-well imaging method is a powerful tool for quantification of long-term behavioral phenotypes in C. elegans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-39
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Feb 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Some strains were provided by the CGC, which is funded by NIH Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (P40 OD010440). We thank Adam Bahrami for useful discussions. C.Y. was supported by the Center of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) at the University of Pennsylvania, and by the Littlejohn Research Fellowship Program. D.R. was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R01NS064030) and a NARSAD Young Investigator Award. C.F.Y. was supported by an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, the Ellison Medical Foundation, and the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (R01NS084835).


  • Behavior
  • C. elegans
  • Development
  • Imaging
  • Lethargus
  • Mating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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