Strategies for automated analysis of C. elegans locomotion.
Buckingham SD., Sattelle DB.
Automated analysis of C. elegans behaviour is a rapidly developing field, offering the possibility of behaviour-based, high-throughput drug screens and systematic phenotyping. Standard methods for parameterizing worm shapes and movements are emerging, and progress has been made towards overcoming the difficulties introduced by interactions between worms, as well as worm coiling and omega turning. Current methods have facilitated the identification of subtle phenotypes and the characterisation of roles of neurones in forward locomotion and chemotaxis, as well as the quantitative characterisation of behaviour choice and circadian patterns of activity. Given the speed with which C. elegans has been deployed in genetic screens and chemical screens, it is to be hoped that wormtrackers may eventually provide similar rapidity in assaying behavioural phenotypes. However, considerable progress must be made before this can be accomplished. In the case of genome-wide RNAi screens, for example, the presence in the worm genome of some 19,000 genes means that even the minimal user intervention in an automatic phenotyping system will be very costly. Nonetheless, recent advances have shown that drug actions on large numbers of worms can be tracked, raising hopes that high-throughput behavioural screens may soon be available.