C. elegans as a Model for Synucleinopathies and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases: Tools and Techniques

Methods Mol Biol. 2019:1948:93-112. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-9124-2_9.


Caenorhabditis elegans is widely used to investigate biological processes related to health and disease. Multiple C. elegans models for human neurodegenerative diseases do exist, including those expressing human α-synuclein. Even though these models do not feature all pathological and molecular hallmarks of the disease they mimic, they allow for the identification and dissection of molecular pathways that are involved. In line with this, genetic screens have yielded multiple modifiers of proteotoxicity in C. elegans models for neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we describe a set of common screening approaches and tools that can be used to study synucleinopathies and other neurodegenerative diseases in C. elegans. RNA interference and mutagenesis screens can be used to find genes that affect proteotoxicity, while relatively simple molecular, cellular (fractionation studies), metabolic (respiration studies), and behavioral (thrashing and crawling) readouts can be used to study the effects of disease proteins and modifiers more closely.

Keywords: C. elegans; Forward genetic screens; Fractionation; Misfolding diseases; Neurodegenerative diseases; Parkinson disease; Phenotyping; RNA interference; Thrashing; α-Synuclein.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Transport
  • RNA Interference
  • alpha-Synuclein / chemistry
  • alpha-Synuclein / genetics
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism*


  • alpha-Synuclein