Developmental Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 618 Views Nov 20, 2022

During an animal's development, a large number of cells undergo apoptosis, a suicidal form of death. These cells are promptly phagocytosed by other cells and degraded inside phagosomes. The recognition, engulfment, and degradation of apoptotic cells is an evolutionarily conserved process occurring in all metazoans. Recently, we discovered a novel event in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans: the double-membrane autophagosomes are recruited to the surface of phagosomes; subsequently, the outer membrane of an autophagosome fuses with the phagosomal membrane, allowing the inner vesicle to enter the phagosomal lumen and accumulate there over time. This event facilitates the degradation of the apoptotic cell inside the phagosome. During this study, we developed a real-time imaging protocol monitoring the recruitment and fusion of autophagosomes to phagosomes over two hours during embryonic development. This protocol uses a deconvolution-based microscopic imaging system with an optimized setting to minimize photodamage of the embryo during the recording period for high-resolution images. Furthermore, acid-resistant fluorescent reporters are chosen to label autophagosomes, allowing the inner vesicles of an autophagosome to remain visible after entering the acidic phagosomal lumen. The methods described here, which enable high sensitivity, quantitative measurement of each step of the dynamic incorporation in developing embryos, are novel since the incorporation of autophagosomes to phagosomes has not been reported previously. In addition to studying the degradation of apoptotic cells, this protocol can be applied to study the degradation of non-apoptotic cell cargos inside phagosomes, as well as the fusion between other types of intracellular organelles in living C. elegans embryos. Furthermore, its principle of detecting the membrane fusion event can be adapted to study the relationship between autophagosomes and phagosomes or other intracellular organelles in any biological system in which real-time imaging can be conducted.

0 Q&A 1057 Views Mar 20, 2022

Analysis of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) is important for understanding dyshomeostasis within the nucleus, impaired DNA repair mechanisms, and cell death. In the C. elegans germline, DSBs are important indicators of all three above-mentioned conditions. Although multiple methods exist to assess apoptosis in the germline of C. elegans, direct assessment of DSBs without the need for a reporter allele or protein-specific antibody is useful. As such, unbiased immunofluorescent approaches can be favorable. This protocol details a method for using terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) to assess DNA DSBs in dissected C. elegans germlines. Germlines are co-labeled with DAPI to allow for easy assessment of DNA DSBs. This approach allows for qualitative or quantitative measures of DNA DSBs.


Graphic abstract:



Schematic for TUNEL labeling of C. elegans germlines.


0 Q&A 1253 Views Oct 20, 2021

Calcium ions trigger many cellular events, including the release of neurotransmitters at the synaptic terminal and excitotoxic cell death. Recently, we have discovered that a transient increase in the level of cytoplasmic Ca2+ triggers the exposure of phosphatidylserine (PS) on the surfaces of necrotic cells in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. PS serves as an “eat me” signal that attracts engulfing cells to engulf and degrade necrotic cells. During the above study, we developed a microscopic imaging protocol for real-time monitoring the levels of cytoplasmic Ca2+ and cell surface PS in Caenorhabditis elegans touch neurons. Previously, Ca2+ dynamics was monitored in neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans larvae in time periods ranging from milliseconds to seconds. Methods for monitoring Ca2+ dynamics for a relatively long period of time during embryonic development were not available, let alone for simultaneous monitoring Ca2+ and PS dynamics. The protocol reported here utilizes a deconvolution imaging system with an optimized experimental setting that reduces photo-damage and allows the proper development of embryos during the real-time imaging process. This protocol enables the simultaneous measurement of cytosolic Ca2+ and cell surface PS levels in necrotic touch neurons during embryonic development in a period longer than six hours. Our method provides an easy and sensitive approach to perform long-time Ca2+ and PS recording in living animals, simultaneously or individually. This protocol can be applied to study various cellular and developmental events that involve the dynamic regulation of Ca2+ and/or PS.

0 Q&A 3491 Views Feb 20, 2021

Loss of function studies shed significant light on the involvement of a gene or gene product in different cellular processes. Short hairpin RNA (shRNA) mediated RNA interference (RNAi) is a classical yet straightforward technique frequently used to knock down a gene for assessing its function. Similar perturbations in gene expression can be achieved by siRNA, microRNA, or CRISPR-Cas9 methods also. In Drosophila genetics, the UAS-GAL4 system is utilized to express RNAi and make ubiquitous and tissue-specific knockdowns possible. The UAS-GAL4 system borrows genetic components of S. cerevisiae, hence rule out the possibility of accidental expression of the system. In particular, this technique uses a target-specific shRNA, and the expression of the same is governed by the upstream activating sequence (UAS). Controlled expression of GAL4, regulated by specific promoters, can drive the interfering RNA expression ubiquitously or in a tissue-specific manner. The knockdown efficiency is measured by RNA isolation and semiquantitative RT-PCR reaction followed by agarose gel electrophoresis. We have employed immunostaining procedure also to assess knockdown efficiency.


RNAi provides researchers with an option to decrease the gene product levels (equivalent to hypomorph condition) and study the outcomes. UAS-GAL4 based RNAi method provides spatio-temporal regulation of gene expression and helps deduce the function of a gene required during early developmental stages also.

0 Q&A 8284 Views Mar 20, 2018
Noncanonical Wnt signaling functions independently of the β-catenin pathway to control diverse developmental processes, and dysfunction of the pathway contributes to a number of human pathological conditions, including birth defects and metastatic cancer. Progress in the field, however, has been hampered by the scarcity of functional assays for measuring noncanonical Wnt signaling activity. We recently described the Wnt5a-Ror-Kif26b (WRK) reporter assay, which directly monitors a post-transcriptional regulatory event in noncanonical Wnt signaling. In this protocol, we describe the generation of the stable GFP-Kif26b reporter cell line and a quantitative reporter assay for detecting and measuring Wnt5a signaling activities in live cells via flow cytometry.
1 Q&A 10944 Views May 5, 2013
During the development of the C. elegans hermaphrodite, 131 of the 1090 somatic cells generated undergo programmed cell death, among which 113 die during embryogenesis starting from 200-cell stage. The apoptotic cells (also called “cell corpses”) appear as highly refractile button-like objects and are easily identified using differential interference contrast (DIC) optics (Robertson et al., 1982).



We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By using our website, you are agreeing to allow the storage of cookies on your computer.