A high-content assay for identifying small molecules that reprogram C. elegans germ cell fate

Joshua A. Benson, Erin E. Cummings, Linda P. O'Reilly, Myon Hee Lee, Stephen C. Pak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent breakthrough discoveries have shown that committed cell fates can be reprogrammed by genetic, chemical and environmental manipulations. The germline of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans provides a tractable system for studying cell fate reprogramming within the context of a whole organism. To explore the possibility of using C. elegans in high-throughput screens (HTS), we developed a high-throughput workflow for testing compounds that modulate cell fate reprogramming. We utilized puf-8; lip-1 mutants that have enhanced MPK-1 (an ERK homolog)/MAP kinase (MAPK) signaling. Wild-type C. elegans hermaphrodites produce both sperm and oocytes, and are thus self-fertile. However, puf-8; lip-1 mutants produce only sperm and are sterile. Notably, compounds that pharmacologically down-regulate MPK-1 (an ERK homolog)/MAP kinase (MAPK) signaling are able to reprogram germ cell fate and restore fertility to these animals. puf-8; lip-1 mutants provide numerous challenges for HTS. First, they are sterile as homozygotes and must be maintained as heterozygotes using a balancer chromosome. Second, homozygous animals for experimentation must be physically separated from the rest of the population. Third, a high quality, high-content assay has not been developed to measure compound effects on germ cell fate reprogramming. Here we describe a semi-automated high-throughput workflow that enables effective sorting of homozygous puf-8; lip-1 mutants into 384-well plates using the COPAS™ BIOSORT. In addition, we have developed an image-based assay for rapidly measuring germ cell reprogramming by measuring the number of viable progeny in wells. The methods presented in this report enable the use of puf-8; lip-1 mutants in HTS campaigns for chemical modulators of germ cell reprogramming within the context of a whole organism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-535
Number of pages7
JournalMethods
Volume68
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2014

Keywords

  • C. elegans
  • Cell fate
  • Drug screening
  • High-content screening
  • Reprogramming

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