Simple Microfluidic Devices for in vivo Imaging of C. elegans, Drosophila and Zebrafish

Neurobiology, NCBS-TIFR.
Journal of Visualized Experiments (Impact Factor: 1.33). 09/2012; DOI: 10.3791/3780
Source: PubMed


Micro fabricated fluidic devices provide an accessible micro-environment for in vivo studies on small organisms. Simple fabrication processes are available for microfluidic devices using soft lithography techniques (1-3). Microfluidic devices have been used for sub-cellular imaging (4,5), in vivo laser microsurgery (2,6) and cellular imaging (4,7). In vivo imaging requires immobilization of organisms. This has been achieved using suction (5,8), tapered channels (6,7,9), deformable membranes (2-4,10), suction with additional cooling (5), anesthetic gas (11), temperature sensitive gels (12), cyanoacrylate glue (13) and anesthetics such as levamisole (14,15). Commonly used anesthetics influence synaptic transmission (16,17) and are known to have detrimental effects on sub-cellular neuronal transport (4). In this study we demonstrate a membrane based poly-dimethyl-siloxane (PDMS) device that allows anesthetic free immobilization of intact genetic model organisms such as Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), Drosophila larvae and zebrafish larvae. These model organisms are suitable for in vivo studies in microfluidic devices because of their small diameters and optically transparent or translucent bodies. Body diameters range from ~10 μm to ~800 μm for early larval stages of C. elegans and zebrafish larvae and require microfluidic devices of different sizes to achieve complete immobilization for high resolution time-lapse imaging. These organisms are immobilized using pressure applied by compressed nitrogen gas through a liquid column and imaged using an inverted microscope. Animals released from the trap return to normal locomotion within 10 min. We demonstrate four applications of time-lapse imaging in C. elegans namely, imaging mitochondrial transport in neurons, pre-synaptic vesicle transport in a transport-defective mutant, glutamate receptor transport and Q neuroblast cell division. Data obtained from such movies show that microfluidic immobilization is a useful and accurate means of acquiring in vivo data of cellular and sub-cellular events when compared to anesthetized animals (Figure 1J and 3C-F (4)). Device dimensions were altered to allow time-lapse imaging of different stages of C. elegans, first instar Drosophila larvae and zebrafish larvae. Transport of vesicles marked with synaptotagmin tagged with GFP (syt.eGFP) in sensory neurons shows directed motion of synaptic vesicle markers expressed in cholinergic sensory neurons in intact first instar Drosophila larvae. A similar device has been used to carry out time-lapse imaging of heartbeat in ~30 hr post fertilization (hpf) zebrafish larvae. These data show that the simple devices we have developed can be applied to a variety of model systems to study several cell biological and developmental phenomena in vivo.

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