High-throughput, motility-based sorter for microswimmers such as C. elegans†
Animal motility varies with genotype, disease, aging, and environmental conditions. In many studies, it is desirable to carry out high throughput motility-based sorting to isolate rare animals for, among other things, forward genetic screens to identify genetic pathways that regulate phenotypes of interest. Many commonly used screening processes are labor-intensive, lack sensitivity, and require extensive investigator training. Here, we describe a sensitive, high throughput, automated, motility-based method for sorting nematodes. Our method is implemented in a simple microfluidic device capable of sorting thousands of animals per hour per module, and is amenable to parallelism. The device successfully enriches for known C. elegans motility mutants. Furthermore, using this device, we isolate low-abundance mutants capable of suppressing the somnogenic effects of the flp-13 gene, which regulates C. elegans sleep. By performing genetic complementation tests, we demonstrate that our motility-based sorting device efficiently isolates mutants for the same gene identified by tedious visual inspection of behavior on an agar surface. Therefore, our motility-based sorter is capable of performing high throughput gene discovery approaches to investigate fundamental biological processes.