Live imaging of cellular dynamics during Caenorhabditis elegans postembryonic development

Nat Protoc. 2012 Dec;7(12):2090-102. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2012.128. Epub 2012 Nov 8.


Postembryonic development is an important process of organismal maturation after embryonic growth. Despite key progress in recent years in understanding embryonic development via fluorescence time-lapse microscopy, comparatively less live-cell imaging of postembryonic development has been done. Here we describe a protocol to image larval development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Our protocol describes the construction of fluorescent transgenic C. elegans, immobilization of worm larvae and time-lapse microscopy analysis. To improve the throughput of imaging, we developed a C. elegans triple-fluorescence imaging approach with a worm-optimized blue fluorescent protein (TagBFP), green fluorescent protein (GFP) and mCherry. This protocol has been previously applied to time-lapse imaging analysis of Q neuroblast asymmetric division, migration and apoptosis, and we show here that it can also be used to image neuritogenesis in the L1 larvae. Other applications are also possible. The protocol can be completed within 3 h and may provide insights into understanding postembryonic development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development*
  • Developmental Biology / methods*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Time-Lapse Imaging / methods*


  • Fluorescent Dyes