An automated method for the analysis of food intake behaviour in Caenorhabditis elegans

Sci Rep. 2018 Feb 26;8(1):3633. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-21964-z.


The study of mechanisms that govern feeding behaviour and its related disorders is a matter of global health interest. The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans is becoming a model organism of choice to study these conserved pathways. C. elegans feeding depends on the contraction of the pharynx (pumping). Thanks to the worm transparency, pumping can be directly observed under a stereoscope. Therefore, C. elegans feeding has been historically investigated by counting pharyngeal pumping or by other indirect approaches. However, those methods are short-term, time-consuming and unsuitable for independent measurements of sizable numbers of individuals. Although some particular devices and long-term methods have been lately reported, they fail in the automated, scalable and/or continuous aspects. Here we present an automated bioluminescence-based method for the analysis and continuous monitoring of worm feeding in a multi-well format. We validate the method using genetic, environmental and pharmacological modulators of pharyngeal pumping. This flexible methodology allows studying food intake at specific time-points or during longer periods of time, in single worms or in populations at any developmental stage. Additionally, changes in feeding rates in response to differential metabolic status or external environmental cues can be monitored in real time, allowing accurate kinetic measurements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Kinetics