Large-scale in vivo femtosecond laser neurosurgery
screen reveals small-molecule enhancer of regeneration
Chrysanthi Samaraa,1, Christopher B. Rohdea,1, Cody L. Gillelanda,1, Stephanie Nortonb,
Stephen J. Haggartyb, and Mehmet Fatih Yanika,2
aDepartment of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139;
bCenter for Human Genetic Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02142
Edited* by Erich P. Ippen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, and approved August 31, 2010 (received for review April 21, 2010)
Discovery of molecular mechanisms and chemical compounds that
enhance neuronal regeneration can lead to development of ther-
apeuticsto combat nervous system injuries and neurodegenerative
diseases. By combining high-throughput microfluidics and femto-
second laser microsurgery, we demonstrate for the first time large-
scale in vivo screens for identification of compounds that affect
neurite regeneration. We performed thousands of microsurgeries
at single-axon precision in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans
at a rate of 20 seconds per animal. Followingsurgeries,we exposed
the animals to a hand-curated library of approximately one hun-
dred small molecules and identified chemicals that significantly
alter neurite regeneration. In particular, we found that the PKC
kinase inhibitor staurosporine strongly modulates regeneration in
a concentration- and neuronal type-specific manner. Two structu-
rally unrelated PKC inhibitors produce similar effects. We further
show that regeneration is significantly enhanced by the PKC acti-
C. elegans ∣ chemical screen ∣ microfluidics
limited, which has been attributed to both extrinsic signals of
the inhibitory glial environment (1) as well as intrinsic neuronal
factors (2–4). The discovery of cell-permeable small molecules
that modulate axon regrowth can potentiate the development
of efficient therapeutic treatments for spinal cord injuries, brain
trauma, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases. Identification of
such molecules can also provide valuable tools for fundamental
investigations of the mechanisms involved in the regeneration
process. Currently, small-molecule screens for neuronal regen-
eration are performed in simple in vitro cell culture systems. Such
screens have already revealed large numbers of chemicals that
enhance regeneration and/or affect cellular morphogenesis, yet
many of these hits still remain untested in vivo. In addition, most
in vitro studies do not translate to animal models and also fail to
reveal off-target, toxic, or lethal effects. Thus, a thorough inves-
tigation of neuronal regeneration mechanisms requires in vivo
neuronal injury models.
In vivo investigation of neuronal regeneration has been per-
formed mainly in mice and rats. However, their long developmen-
tal periods, complicated genetics and biology, and expensive
maintenance prevent large-scale studies on these animals. The
nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a simple, well-studied, inver-
tebrate model-organism with a fully mapped neuronal network
comprising 302 neurons. Its short developmental cycle, simple
and low-cost laboratory maintenance, and genetic amenability
makeitanideal modelforlarge-scale screens,rapididentification
of the molecular targets of screened compounds, and discovery of
novel signaling pathways implicated in regeneration.
Until recently however, the small size of C. elegans (∼50 μm
in diameter) prevented its use for investigation of neuronal
regeneration mechanisms. We previously demonstrated femtose-
cond laser microsurgery as a highly precise and reproducible in-
jury method for studying axon regrowth in C. elegans (5–7). The
he ability of neurons in the adult mammalian central nervous
system to regenerate their axons after injury is extremely
nonlinear multiphoton absorption of the incident femtosecond
pulse allows subcellular-resolution surgery of nematode neuronal
processes with minimal out-of-plane absorption and collateral
damage. Furthermore, due to the stereotypic anatomy and
hermaphroditic reproduction of C. elegans, the same neurons
can be repeatedly axotomized at the same distance from the soma
in isogenic animal populations, which significantly enhances
reproducibility of assays. Recent studies have used this technique
to investigate how factors such as animal age, neuronal type,
synaptic branching, and axon guidance signaling, influence regen-
eration (8, 9). In combination with screens on nematodes exhibit-
ing spontaneous neurite breaks due to dysfunction of β-spectrin,
this technique has also revealed that axon regrowth depends on
the activity of MAP kinase pathways (10, 11).
However, neuronal regeneration is a highly stochastic process
requiring large numbers of animals to be screened. The high
motility of wild-type nematodes causes a significant throughput
challenge. Precise laser axotomy and imaging at the cellular level
require orientation and immobilization of animals. Traditional
immobilization methods using anesthetics, such as sodium azide,
levamisole, and tricaine/tetramisole, have significant and/or un-
characterized effects on nematode physiology, which may affect
the regeneration process (12). In addition, anesthetics need
several minutes to take effect, and recovery of nematodes from
anesthesia requires exchange of media without losing animals, all
of which hinder high-throughput screening. Other techniques
that can be used to reversibly immobilize C. elegans include trap-
ping of nematodes in wedge-shaped microchannels (13), cooling
(14, 15), and exposure to CO2(16, 17). However, the physiolo-
gical effects of exposure to low temperatures and CO2remain
uncharacterized for many biological processes. In addition, none
of these techniques has been adapted to perform large-scale
chemical or RNAi screens using multiwell plates compatible with
standard incubation and liquid-handling platforms.
We previously developed noninvasive mechanical means to
immobilize C. elegans for high-throughput in vivo imaging
and femtosecond laser microsurgery (18, 19). Here, in order to
facilitate large-scale screening of chemical libraries, we also
developed a simple and robust mechanism to transfer nematodes
from multiwell plates to microfluidic chips for neurosurgery and
imaging. In combination with software we designed, we can load,
image, and perform femtosecond laser microsurgery within 20 s
per animal. We performed chemical screens using thousands
of animals to test a hand-curated library of approximately 100
Author contributions: C.S., C.B.R., C.L.G., and M.F.Y. designed research; C.S., C.B.R., and
C.L.G. performed research; C.S., C.B.R., C.L.G., S.N., S.J.H., and M.F.Y. contributed new
reagents/analytic tools; C.S. analyzed data; and C.S., C.B.R., and M.F.Y. wrote the paper.
Conflict of interest statement: The authors have filed patents. M.F.Y. is founder and chief
scientific advisor of Entera Pharmaceuticals.
*This Direct Submission article had a prearranged editor.
1C.S., C.B.R., and C.L.G. contributed equally to this work.
2To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: email@example.com.
This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/
18342–18347 ∣ PNAS ∣ October 26, 2010 ∣ vol. 107 ∣ no. 43www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1005372107
chemicals. We demonstrate that structurally distinct PKC inhibi-
tors impair regeneration of C. elegans mechanosensory neurons.
We also show that prostratin, a PKC activator, significantly
increases neuronal regeneration.
To enable chemical screens, we made several modifications to
the microfluidic C. elegans screening technology we previously
developed (Fig. 1A) (18, 19). To incubate large numbers of ani-
mals in chemical libraries, we used multiwell plates, which are
compatible with industrial liquid-handling platforms. We devel-
oped a method to rapidly, reliably, and repeatedly transport
animals between standard multiwell plates containing chemicals
and our screening chips (Fig. 1B). The multiwell plates are held
at an angle, and a metal tube is inserted into each well until it
reaches just above the well bottom. Because the animals settle
near the well bottom, this allows rapid aspiration of animals with-
out fluid being completely drained out of the wells. The channel
array of the microfluidic screening chip is used to rapidly load
multiple animals simultaneously into the main screening chamber
(Fig. 1C, step 1). To capture an individual animal, the single
aspiration port of the chamber is activated (Fig. 1C, step 2).
The rest of the animals in the chamber are flown back toward
the input (Fig. 1C, step 3) by brief application of a small pressure
difference from the channel array. During this period, debris
and air bubbles (which occasionally enter the chip during animal
loading and adhere strongly to the chip surfaces) remain in the
chamber. Next, by switching an off-chip valve, a stronger pressure
pulse is applied to move debris or bubbles to the waste output
(Fig. 1C, step 4), while the single aspiration port tightly holds
the captured animal in the chamber. Subsequently, all on-chip
valves surrounding the main chamber are closed, isolating the sin-
gle animal. The animal is then released from the single aspiration
port and aspirated toward the channel array (Fig. 1C, step 5).
This orients the animal linearly, making it easy to image and per-
form laser microsurgery. To increase the stability of immobiliza-
tion, the channel above the chamber is then pressurized, pushing
the thin immobilization membrane downward (Fig. 1 A and D).
This fully constrains the animal motion for imaging and surgery
(12, 19). Once the animal is immobilized, the microscope and
camera configuration automatically switches to high-resolution
acquisition. We developed a simple software interface to quickly
target the laser to the surgery position at a preset surgery distance
from the soma of the neuron. The software requires the user to
make only two mouse clicks to perform the entire surgery opera-
tion. The user first clicks on the soma of the neuron to be axo-
tomized. The software then draws a circle centered on the soma
where the radius of the circle is equal to the set surgery distance.
The user next clicks on the intersection of the circle and the axon,
which is the desired surgery location (Fig. 1E). The software
automatically moves the laser target to this surgery position
and performs the surgery. These enhancements significantly
increase the throughput of our system: Our system can process
animals within approximately 20 s on average, including off-chip
loading and unloading of animals (Fig. 1F). Per animal, this is
faster than the time previously reported for automated ablation
of entire cell bodies alone (20), which requires less surgical
Using this technology, we screened C. elegans for regenerative
effects upon exposure to a chemical library enriched for com-
pounds that may affect neurite outgrowth in mammalian cell cul-
tures in vitro (21, 22). The potential targets of the small-molecule
library that we screened included various kinases, cytoskeletal
proteins, endocytic vesicle trafficking components, and nuclear
048 12 16 20 24
Red, control (valve) layer; yellow, flow layer; blue, immobilization layer. Scale bar: 1 mm. (B) Animal loading from multiwell plates. The multiwell plate is held at
a 40° angle and a stainless steel tube is inserted to the well bottom. (C) Microfluidic C. elegans manipulation steps. 1. Loading of nematodes. Dust, debris, air
bubbles, and bacteria occasionally also enter the chip. 2. Capture of a single animal by the single aspiration channel. 3. Isolation of a single animal within the
chamber by low-pressure washing of the channels to remove and recycle the rest of the nematodes. 4. Cleaning of channels by high pressure washing to
remove debris and bubbles. 5. Orientation of the single animal by releasing it from the single aspiration port and recapturing it by the channel array. 6.
Immobilization by pressurizing a thin membrane (see D). 7. Laser microsurgery (see E). 8. Unloading of the animal from the chip after surgery. (D) Illustration
of the final immobilization process. Once a single animal is captured and linearly oriented (Left), a channel above the main chamber is pressurized pushing a
thin membrane downward (Right). The membrane wraps around the animal, significantly increasing immobilization stability for imaging and surgery. Precise
laser targeting of subcellular features is achieved using a femtosecond laser tightly focused inside the C. elegans body by a high numerical aperture objective
lens (see Materials and Methods). (E) Software interface to accelerate axon targeting for laser axotomy. A right mouse click on the cell body is used to identify
the portion of the axon at a set distance from the soma, and a left mouse click automatically moves this location to the laser focal point. (F) Average time per
animal for screening steps. Total time per animal is from three independent experiments with 100 worms each.
Microfluidic C. elegans manipulation for subcellular laser microsurgery and chemical library screening. (A) Micrograph of dye-filled microfluidic chip.
Samara et al. PNAS
October 26, 2010
processes (Fig. 2A). Such use of chemicals with a priori known
targets facilitates delineation of molecular mechanisms involved
in regeneration. To test the effects of these compounds on regen-
eration we axotomized mechanosensory neurons of C. elegans.
These neurons have been used extensively for investigation of
neurodegeneration in connection with human diseases (23, 24).
They grow long axonal processes devoid of large numbers of
lateral branches, enabling highly precise microsurgery and subse-
quent imaging and characterization of outgrowing processes.
Axotomies were performed on ALM mechanosensory neurons
at larval stage 4 (L4) nematodes, approximately 200 μm away
from the cell body. Following microsurgery, animals were incu-
bated in the presence of small molecules at concentrations ran-
ging from 10–20 μM. Neurite regeneration was assessed 72 h post
axotomy by measuring the length of the regrowing processes
(Fig. 2B). Fig. 2A shows a classification of the library compounds
and the percentage of chemicals in each group that led to signif-
icant regeneration effects (i.e., P ≤ 0.05 in Student’s t test).
The compounds screened, the number of animals treated with
each compound, the effects on regeneration, and the statistical
significances are provided in SI Text (Fig. S1 and Table S1).
From our preliminary screen, we identified a number of che-
mical compounds that significantly altered axon regeneration
(P ≤ 0.05), among which were modulators of protein kinase ac-
tivity (Fig. 2A). This observation, in conjunction with the recent
studies implicating specific MAP kinases in the regeneration of
nematode GABAergic motor neurons (10, 11), prompted us to
further investigate the effects of kinase modulators in C. elegans
class on regeneration of PLM neurons, since regrowing ALM
neurons pass near or through the dense and complex neuronal
circuitry of the nerve ring and occasionally interact with its com-
ponents, complicating analysis and interpretation of the results.
By performing laser axotomy on PLM mechanosensory neu-
rons, we analyzed the effects of all the commercially available ki-
nase modulators from our initial chemical library, which included
staurosporine, wortmannin, LY294,002, H89, W7, PD 98,059,
50-E12, Y-27632, and dibutyryl-cAMP (Fig. 2C and Table 1).
Known targets of these compounds are shown in Table 1. Com-
pounds were tested at late larval stage and young adult nema-
todes, at concentrations ranging from 10 to 100 μM (Fig. 2C
and Table 1). Staurosporine, a nonselective kinase inhibitor with
high affinity for protein kinase C (PKC) (25), exhibited the stron-
gest effects. Staurosporine administered at a concentration of
10 μM caused approximately a threefold decrease in the regrowth
of PLM neurons 48 h after axotomy, whereas concentrations low-
er than 5 μM did not exhibit any significant effect (Fig. 3A). The
effect was similar in L4 and young adult animals (44.25 ? 7.47 vs.
112.86 ? 9.23 μm, P ¼ 2.89 E-07 in L4 animals, 44.15 ? 6.23 vs.
89.32 ? 7.11, P ¼ 3.20 E-05 in young adults) (Fig. S2). In early
larval stages, 0.5% DMSO (used as a solvent for staurosporine)
was toxic; however, the few surviving L3 nematodes also exhibited
decreased regrowth and strong morphological abnormalities.
Although toxicity of DMSO is a limitation for using chemical
libraries on young larvae, 0.5% DMSO is not toxic to either
young adults or older animals, which is of significant value for
pharmaceutical screens targeting degenerative diseases and
Interestingly, the effect of staurosporine administration was
specific to the neuronal type; although staurosporine affected
PLM touch neurons, it did not alter regeneration of the ALM
touch neurons, D-type GABAergic motor neurons, CEP dopami-
nergic neurons, or AWB olfactory neurons (Fig. 3B). Given that
only the posteriorly located PLM neurons exhibited sensitivity
to staurosporine, this differential effect could be attributed to
physical barriers preventing staurosporine from reaching more
anterior parts of the C. elegans body. To investigate this possibi-
lity, we took advantage of GABAergic neurons, which can be
found all along the nematode body. In contrast with its effect
on PLM neurons, staurosporine did not alter significantly the
regrowth of axotomized posterior GABAergic motor neurons,
nor did it cause any difference in the response among GABAergic
motor neurons in the posterior-, anterior- or mid-body of animals
(Fig. 3D). These observations suggest that different types of
neurons have different molecular requirements for regeneration.
This is true even for neurons with highly similar structure and
functions, such as ALMs and PLMs, both of which extend long
processes along the nematode body and are required for mechan-
osensation (Fig. 3 B and C).
Regenerating neurites in animals treated with staurosporine
often exhibited swellings along the axon and big terminal retrac-
tion bulbs (Fig. 3C). Such structures were observed mainly in
the axotomized neurites of treated animals and only rarely in
eration. (A) Primary target categories of the screened compound library. The
dashed parts of the pie chart represent the percentage of compounds in each
category affecting regeneration. The number of screened compounds and
the percentage of the effective compounds in each category are denoted.
(B) Common regeneration phenotypes observed 72 h following axotomy
and compound exposure: (i) no axon regrowth, (ii) forward regrowth, (iii)
backward regrowth, and (iv) regrowth with branching. Arrows and asterisks
indicate start and end points of regenerated axons, respectively. For re-
growth with branching, indicated start and end points are for the longest
regrown branch. Scale bars: 20 μm. (C) Effects of protein kinase modulators
in the regeneration of PLM neurites after laser axotomy. PLM neurons of L4
nematodes were axotomized 50 μm away from the cell body. Animals were
incubated in the presence of kinase modulators for 48 h, and the lengths of
the longest regrowing neurites were measured (**, P ≤ 0.01). Error bars de-
note the SEM, n indicates the total number of animals used in each case, and
each bar shows one representative screen with its controls.
In vivo chemical screen for small molecules affecting axonal regen-
www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1005372107 Samara et al.
nontreated animals. Because staurosporine is known to induce
apoptosis at high concentrations (26–29), we investigated
whether staurosporine’s effect on regeneration is related to the
activation of apoptotic pathways. Classical apoptotic pathways in
C. elegans require CED-3, a cysteine protease of the interleukin-
1β-converting enzyme (ICE) family (30, 31). In vitro mammalian
cell culture assays have demonstrated the requirement of this
family of caspases (ICE/CED-3 protease family) for the induction
and execution of early apoptotic events following exposure to
staurosporine (32–34). We tested staurosporine on a ced-3 mu-
tant genetic background and observed no significant difference
in regeneration compared with wild-type animals (Fig. S3A).
In addition, we used Hoffman microscopy to perform a time
course image analysis of the axotomized neurons in staurospor-
ine-treated nematodes from 24 to 120 h after laser microsurgery.
No apoptotic body morphology was detected at any time point
within 120 h following axotomy, and the injured neurons persis-
tently expressed GFP (Fig. S3B). Our observations suggest that
impairment of neurite regeneration by staurosporine in our ex-
perimental system does not involve activation of classical apop-
While staurosporine can induce apoptosis only at high concen-
trations, at lower concentrations it has been shown to inhibit the
protein kinases PKC, PKA, PKG, CAMKII, and MLCK, as well
as other kinases in a concentration-dependent manner, and to
stimulate K-Cl cotransport in red blood cells (25, 35–37). Because
staurosporine’s strongest inhibitory effect is on PKC kinases, and
in C. elegans it has been shown to inhibit PKC activity (38), we
tested whether it exerts its effects on regrowing neurites via
the inhibition of this particular kinase. To this end, subsequent
to laser microsurgery of PLM neurites, we incubated nematodes
in the presence of the two distinct structural classes of specific
PKC inhibitors, chelerythrine or Gö 6983 (39, 40). Treatment
of axotomized animals with either chelerythrine or Gö 6983 at
concentrations between 10 and 100 μM also significantly reduced
regeneration (70.40 ? 8.20 vs. 123.35 ? 7.86 μm, P ¼ 2.65 E-05
99.83 ? 8.28
P ¼ 0.023 for Gö 6983) (Fig. 4). Furthermore, the PKC activator
prostratin significantly increased regeneration of PLM neurites
128.65 ? 9.10 μm,
Neurite regrowth (µm)
PLM (Staurosporine 10µM)
ALM (Staurosporine 10µM)
Neurite regrowth (µm)
Neurite regrowth (µm)
+ Staurosporine (10µM)
is dependent on staurosporine concentration and
neuronal type. (A) PLM neurons of L4 nematodes
were axotomized, and regeneration was measured
after 48 h. Staurosporine inhibited regrowth at con-
centrations of 5 μM or higher. Toxicity was observed
at concentrations higher than 10 μM. (B) Laser micro-
surgeries were performed on different types of neu-
rons in young adult nematodes, and regeneration
was measured 48 h later. Staurosporine had a signif-
icant effect only in PLM neurons (**, P ≤ 0.01). (C)
Regeneration phenotypes observed 48 h after axot-
omy of PLM (i and ii) or ALM (iii and iv) neurons in
staurosporine-treated and control animals. Arrows
and asterisks indicate start and end points of regen-
erated axons, respectively. Arrowheads in (ii) indi-
cate terminal retraction bulb and axonal swellings
formed in PLM neurons after staurosporine treat-
ment. Scale bars: 30 μm. (D) Effect of staurosporine
on GABAergic motor neurons at different parts of
the nematode body. GABAergic neurons were
axotomized in L4 animals and regeneration was
measured after 48 h. Treatment of nematodes with
10 μM staurosporine did not significantly alter the
regrowth of posterior GABAergic neurons when
compared to nontreated animals. The regeneration
response was similar among anterior, midbody, and
posterior GABAergic neurons after exposure to
staurosporine. Error bars in A, B, and D denote
the SEM, and n indicates the total number of animals
Effect of staurosporine on neurite regrowth
Table 1. Effects of kinase modulators on the regeneration of C. elegans PLM neurons
Small moleculeMolecular target Regeneration effect vs. control (%)
cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA)
Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)
1.623 × 10−7
The commercially available kinase modulators included in our chemical library are listed along with their known targets. The percent
differences in mean neurite regrowth with respect to the controls following 48 h exposure of axotomized L4 animals to the chemicals
are shown with corresponding P-values.
*At higher concentrations, staurosporine also inhibits Myosin light chain kinase (MLCK), PKA, PKG, and CaMKII.
†At higher concentrations, wortmannin also inhibits mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and MLCK.
Samara et al.PNAS
October 26, 2010
(145.25 ? 7.46 vs. 114.68 ? 8.88 μm, P ¼ 0.01) (Fig. 4). In com-
bination, the above results strongly suggest that PKC kinases are
involved in the regeneration of C. elegans mechanosensory
neurons. Although we cannot exclude contribution of other path-
ways to the inhibitory effect of staurosporine, these pathways
likely do not involve PKA signalling (also targeted by staurospor-
ine), because we did not observe any effect on regeneration
after treatment with PKA modulators db-cAMP and H89 (Fig. 2
and Table 1).
We demonstrated here the use of laser microsurgery and micro-
fluidic technologies for in vivo screening of chemicals affecting
neuronal regeneration. We developed a simple and robust tech-
nique to load nematodes from and dispense to standard multi-
well plates. This allowed us to use standard technologies for
incubation of large numbers of animals in chemicals, while
utilizing the manipulation capabilities of our microfluidic chips.
In combination with software we developed, we were able to
load, image, and perform single-axon-precision surgeries within
approximately 20 s.
Screening a chemical library of small molecules indicated
the involvement of specific kinase pathways in neurite regrowth
after injury in C. elegans. We found that the kinase inhibitor staur-
osporine suppresses regeneration in a neuronal type-specific
manner. In addition, we showed that axonal regeneration is
significantly enhanced after administration of a PKC activator.
Our results are consistent with in vitro studies on goldfish retina
explants (41), on adult frog sciatic sensory axons (42), on post-
natal mice retinal ganglion cells (43), and on adult mice sensory
ganglia (44), wherein the administration of PKC inhibitors follow-
ing mechanical lesion affects neurite outgrowth. This indicates
the existence of conserved neuronal regeneration mechanisms
between nematodes and vertebrate organisms. However, in vitro
studies have yielded conflicting data regarding the involvement
of PKC kinase in inhibitory effects of staurosporine on neuronal
regeneration. By performing regeneration studies on whole
organisms, we showed in vivo that staurosporine blocks regenera-
tion at least partially by inhibiting PKC. We also showed that
other kinase inhibitors of PI3K, PKA, MAPKKK, and ROCK
did not affect regeneration in a neuron type that is otherwise
strongly affected by staurosporine. However, these kinase inhibi-
tors affect neurite growth in other experimental models (45–49).
The lack of response to these other types of kinase inhibitors
could be due to the differences among neuronal types, the inef-
fectiveness of these chemicals in our experimental system, or the
absence of inhibitory myelin sheath in C. elegans.
Many chemicals have been found to modulate neurite growth
in vitro. However, validation of these effects in vivo and identi-
fication of their mechanisms of action have remained elusive due
to the lack of large-scale screening technologies for genetically
amenable animal models. The advantages of C. elegans genetics
and our high-throughput screening technology should allow fu-
ture discovery of novel molecular pathways required for neuronal
regeneration. Further experiments on higher organisms will show
which of these mechanisms are conserved in mammals and may
provide means for pharmaceutical or genetic interventions to
combat human diseases and injuries.
Materials and Methods
Nematode Handling. Nematodes were grown at 15 °C in NGM agar plates,
unless otherwise mentioned. Standard procedures were followed for
C. elegans strain maintenance and genetic crosses (50). Nematode strains
used in this study included BZ555: egIs1½pdat-1GFP?, CX3553: lin-15Bðn765Þky
Is104½pstr-1GFP?X, EG1285: lin-15Bðn765ÞoxIs12½punc-47GFP?X, MT1522: ced-3
(n717)IV, SK4005: zdIs5½pmec-4GFP?I, and zdIs5½pmec-4GFP?I;ced-3(n717)IV.
Chemical Treatments. The small-molecule library used in the chemical screen-
ing was prepared from initial compound stock plates with small-molecule
concentrations ranging from 5–10 mM. By consecutive dilutions in 100% di-
methyl sulfoxide (DMSO, Sigma Aldrich) and transfers using the Cybi®-Well
vario 384∕35 μl Head, daughter plates were created, heat sealed, and
stored at −20°C, in order to be used on the day of the screening. Compound
concentrations in the daughter plates ranged from 2–4 mM. One day prior to
laser microsurgeries Escherichia coli OP50 bacteria were inoculated in Luria-
Bertani (LB) media and grown overnight. Subsequently the E. coli culture was
washed with M9 buffer and bacteria were resuspended in liquid nematode
growth media (NGM). For the compound library screens, 55 μl of the NGM
resuspended bacterial culture was added to 0.55 μl of DMSO-dissolved com-
pound library. After thorough mixing, 50 μl of the compound-containing
NGM culture was further diluted, by adding 50 μl of NGM resuspended
bacterial culture, so that the final DMSO concentration was 0.5% and the
small-molecule concentrations ranged from 10–20 μM. Control cases con-
tained either 0.5% DMSO or bacterial culture alone. For each library com-
pound, a total of 10–20 animals were tested during the preliminary screen.
For the kinase effector treatments, axotomized animals were incubated at
20 °C with 10–100 μM dibutyryl-cAMP, H-89, LY-294,002, PD 98,059, stauros-
porine, wortmannin, Y-27632, chelerythrine, Gö 6983, or prostratin (Sigma
Aldrich) in liquid NGM cultures supplemented with E. coli OP50 bacteria
and transferred into fresh cultures every 24 h. For control experiments in
treatments with LY-294,002, PD 98,059, staurosporine, wortmannin, cheler-
ythrine, Gö 6983, and prostratin, which were dissolved in DMSO, liquid
NGM was also supplemented with the respective amount of DMSO. Each
experiment was repeated at least three times.
Femtosecond Laser Microsurgery. Synchronized L4 nematodes were brought
into the chip and immobilized Mai-Tai® HP (Spectra-Physics) femtosecond la-
ser beam with 800 nm wavelength and 80 MHz repetition rate was delivered
to a Nikon Ti microscope. ALM axons were axotomized by pulses with 10 nJ
energy for 3.2 ms using an objective lens with NA ¼ 0.75. For the control
kinase modulator assays, synchronized L3, L4, or young adult nematodes
were immobilized in 2% agarose pads with 0.1–1% 1-phenoxy-2-propanol.
Neurites of mechanosensory, GABAergic, and AWB or CEP neurons were
axotomized by 7 nJ, 9.5 nJ and 11 nJ energy pulses respectively for
1.5 ms, with a 780 nm laser beam at 80 MHz repetition rate.
chemical modulators of PKC activity. (A) PLM neurons of L4 nematodes were
axotomized, and animals were incubated for 48 h in the presence of staur-
osporine, Gö 6983, chelerythrine, or prostratin. The lengths of the longest
regrowing neurites were compared (*, P ≤ 0.05; **, P ≤ 0.01). Error bars
indicate the SEM, and n indicates the total number of animals used.
(B) Representative images of regenerating PLM neurites as observed 48 h
after laser microsurgery in nontreated (i), Gö 6983- (ii), chelerythrine- (iii),
or prostratin-treated (iv) animals. Arrows and asterisks indicate start and
end points of regenerated axons respectively. Scale bars: 30 μm.
Enhancement and inhibition of regenerationby structurallydifferent
www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1005372107Samara et al.
Data Collection and Analysis. 48–120 h following axotomy, animals were Download full-text
imaged at the area of surgery with a Nikon Ti microscope. The length of
the longest regrowing neurite and morphology of regrowing neurites
were scored using a MATLAB program. The percent regeneration versus
control is used to present the percent difference of regrowth from the
mean value of the control. Statistical analysis was performed using a two-
tailed Student’s t test.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We thank Robert Horvitz’s laboratory for discussions
and technical support, Charles Jennings and Matthew Angel for valuable
comments, and the C. elegans Genetics Center for the strains. This work
was supported by the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator
Award Program (1-DP2-OD002989), Packard Fellowship in Science and Engi-
neering, Alfred Sloan Award in Neuroscience, National Science Foundation
Graduate Fellowship, and Merck Graduate Fellowship.
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Samara et al.PNAS
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