C. elegans in Neurosciences
C. elegans is an early-discovered model organism, which can bridge the difference between in vitro and in vivo experiments by adapting to high-throughput technology while providing physiologically relevant data obtained from the whole animal environment. Certain characteristics of C. elegans make it a powerful tool for scientific research, including:
- Easy to cultivate in a laboratory environment, rapid propagation and large-scale production in a short time, with a very short life cycle (3 days);
- Small size, more than 100 animals can be detected in a single well of a 96-well plate;
- High transparency, convenient for fluorescent labeling to study biological processes in vivo;
- Multicellular organisms, with many different organs and tissues, making it easy to study the complexity of cells.
C. elegans in Neuroscience
C. elegans is a unique model for dissecting molecular events in neuro development. Soon after being introduced into the model, C. elegans was mapped at the level of genes, cells, and synapses, providing a key breakthrough in neurodevelopmental research with complete cell lineage, sequencing genomes, and linker. Its nervous system is composed of 5000 synapses, 302 neurons, 387 male neurons, 50 personality-sharing endothelial glia, and 6 related mesothelial glial cells and other subcutaneous cells. The discovery process is long and complicated.
Fig.1 The development process of C. elegans in neurodevelopment. (Rapti, 2020)
C. elegans was the first multicellular organism to sequence its genome. Its genome sequencing and subsequent gene mapping methods can identify all mutations that damage the development of the nervous system. Neural development proceeds through core processes such as nerve cell generation and differentiation, pathfinding, target selection and connection. Research on C. elegans revealed the principles that shape the surprising complexity of the nervous system.
Fig.2 The main developmental process of C. elegans nervous system formation. (Rapti, 2020)
Key Discoveries Based on C. elegans
- Alzheimer's disease (AD)
- Diabetes Type 2
In 1993, the first presenile protein was discovered in C. elegans. Two years later, mutations in the human presenilin-1 gene were associated with early-onset familial AD.
In 1997, genetic studies of C. elegans identified negative regulators of the insulin signaling pathway. One of the genes, daf-16, encodes a homologous gene of the C. elegans forkhead transcription factor FOXO70. Five years later, the loss of FOXO function rescued the diabetic phenotype of insulin-resistant mice.
The antidepressant fluoxetine has been shown to increase the energy signal of serotonin by inhibiting the serotonin reuptake transporter SERT4 of C. elegans.
Although in most cases, the results of C. elegans phenotype research cannot be directly translated into human pathology, C. elegans analysis simulates some significant features of human pathology from multiple angles. These helps clarify the underlying molecular mechanisms of human diseases and provide new methods for treatment strategies.
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- Rapti, G.; A perspective on C. elegans neurodevelopment: from early visionaries to a booming neuroscience research. Journal of Neurogenetics. 2020, 34(3-4): 259-272.
- Kaletta, T.; Hengartner, M.O. Finding function in novel targets: C. elegans as a model organism. Nature reviews Drug discovery. 2006, 5(5): 387-399.