New label-free automated survival assays reveal unexpected stress resistance patterns during C. elegans aging

Aging Cell. 2019 Oct;18(5):e12998. doi: 10.1111/acel.12998. Epub 2019 Jul 16.


Caenorhabditis elegans is an excellent model for high-throughput experimental approaches but lacks an automated means to pinpoint time of death during survival assays over a short time frame, that is, easy to implement, highly scalable, robust, and versatile. Here, we describe an automated, label-free, high-throughput method using death-associated fluorescence to monitor nematode population survival (dubbed LFASS for label-free automated survival scoring), which we apply to severe stress and infection resistance assays. We demonstrate its use to define correlations between age, longevity, and severe stress resistance, and its applicability to parasitic nematodes. The use of LFASS to assess the effects of aging on susceptibility to severe stress revealed an unexpected increase in stress resistance with advancing age, which was largely autophagy-dependent. Correlation analysis further revealed that while severe thermal stress resistance positively correlates with lifespan, severe oxidative stress resistance does not. This supports the view that temperature-sensitive protein-handling processes more than redox homeostasis underpin aging in C. elegans. That the ages of peak resistance to infection, severe oxidative stress, heat shock, and milder stressors differ markedly suggests that stress resistance and health span do not show a simple correspondence in C. elegans.

Keywords: C. elegans; aging; autophagy; infection; stress; survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Automation*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Homeostasis
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Temperature