Background: The nematode Caenhorhabditis elegans offers great power for the identification and characterization of genes that regulate behavior. In support of this effort, analytical methods are required that provide dimensional analyses of subcomponents of behavior. Previously, we demonstrated that loss of the presynaptic dopamine (DA) transporter, dat-1, evokes DA-dependent Swimming-Induced Paralysis (Swip) (Mcdonald et al., 2007), a behavior compatible with forward genetic screens (Hardaway et al., 2012).
New method: Here, we detail the development and implementation of SwimR, a set of tools that provide for an automated, kinetic analysis of C. elegans Swip. SwimR relies on open source programs that can be freely implemented and modified.
Results: We show that SwimR can display time-dependent alterations of swimming behavior induced by drug-treatment, illustrating this capacity with the dat-1 blocker and tricyclic antidepressant imipramine (IMI). We demonstrate the capacity of SwimR to extract multiple kinetic parameters that are impractical to obtain in manual assays.
Comparison with existing methods: Standard measurements of C. elegans swimming utilizes manual assessments of the number of animals exhibiting swimming versus paralysis. Our approach deconstructs the time course and rates of movement in an automated fashion, offering a significant increase in the information that can be obtained from swimming behavior.
Conclusions: The SwimR platform is a powerful tool for the deconstruction of worm thrashing behavior in the context of both genetic and pharmacological manipulations that can be used to segregate pathways that underlie nematode swimming mechanics.
Keywords: C. elegans; Dopamine; Imipramine; Paralysis; Swimming; Transporter.
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