A simple culture system for long-term imaging of individual C. elegans

Lab Chip. 2017 Nov 7;17(22):3909-3920. doi: 10.1039/c7lc00916j.


We have miniaturized standard culture techniques to rear arrays of isolated, individual C. elegans throughout their lives on solid gel media. The resulting apparatus is compatible with brightfield and fluorescence microscopy, enabling longitudinal studies of morphology and fluorescent transgene expression. Our culture system exploits a novel crosslinking reaction between a polyethylene glycol hydrogel and a silicone elastomer to constrain animals to individual "corrals" on the gel surface. These devices are simple to construct on the benchtop with commercially available reagents, and, unlike microfluidic isolation methods, do not rely on micropatterned materials. We demonstrate that this new culture method has negligible effects on the physiology of C. elegans compared to standard culture on agar plates. In addition, RNAi techniques are effective in this system. Finally, the hydrogel-silicone binding chemistry that we developed also allows traditional microfluidic devices to be covalently attached to gel substrates instead of glass.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Culture Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Culture Techniques / methods
  • Equipment Design
  • Hydrogels
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / instrumentation*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Polyethylene Glycols


  • Hydrogels
  • Polyethylene Glycols