Conditions for dye-filling of sensory neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans

J Neurosci Methods. 2010 Apr 30;188(1):58-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2010.02.003. Epub 2010 Feb 10.


Dye-filling is a common method used to stain Caenorhabditis elegans sensory neurons in vivo. While the amphids and phasmids are easy to stain, a subset of sensory neurons, the IL2 neurons, are difficult to stain reproducibly. Here we examined the conditions under which the IL2 neurons take up the lipophilic fluorescent dye DiI. We find that IL2 dye-filling depends on salt concentration, but not osmolarity. Low salt prior and during incubation is important for efficient dye uptake. Additional parameters that affect dye-filling are the speed of shaking during incubation and the addition of detergents. Our modified dye-filling procedure provides a reliable method to distinguish mutant alleles that stain amphids and phasmids, IL2 neurons, or both. An additional benefit is that it can also stain the excretory duct. The method allows genetic screens to be performed to identify mutants that selectively affect only one of the sensory structures or the excretory duct.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Fluorescent Dyes*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Staining and Labeling / methods*


  • Fluorescent Dyes