Analysis of synaptic transmission in Caenorhabditis elegans using an aldicarb-sensitivity assay

Nat Protoc. 2006;1(4):1772-7. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2006.281.


Caenorhabditis elegans has emerged as a powerful model system for studying the biology of the synapse. Here we describe a widely used assay for synaptic transmission at the C. elegans neuromuscular junction. This protocol monitors the sensitivity of C. elegans to the paralyzing affects of an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, aldicarb. Briefly, adult worms are incubated in the presence of aldicarb and scored for the time-course of aldicarb-induced paralysis. Animals harboring mutations in genes that affect synaptic transmission generally exhibit a change in their sensitivity to aldicarb (either increased sensitivity for enhancements in synaptic transmission or decreased sensitivity for blockage in synaptic transmission). This technique provides a simple assay for the accurate comparative analysis of synaptic transmission in multiple C. elegans strains. The protocol described can be performed relatively quickly and is a practical alternative to other techniques used to study synaptic transmission. This protocol can also be modified to follow the paralytic effects with other pharmacological reagents. The assay can be performed in about 3-6 hours depending on the severity of synaptic transmission defects.

MeSH terms

  • Aldicarb*
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Aldicarb