A Screenable In Vivo Assay for Mitochondrial Modulators Using Transgenic Bioluminescent Caenorhabditis elegans

Cristina Lagido, Debbie McLaggan, L Anne Glover

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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The multicellular model organism Caenorhabditis elegans is a small nematode of approximately 1 mm in size in adulthood that is genetically and experimentally tractable. It is economical and easy to culture and dispense in liquid medium which makes it well suited for medium-throughput screening. We have previously validated the use of transgenic luciferase expressing C. elegans strains to provide rapid in vivo assessment of the nematode's ATP levels.(1-3) Here we present the required materials and procedure to carry out bioassays with the bioluminescent C. elegans strains PE254 or PE255 (or any of their derivative strains). The protocol allows for in vivo detection of sublethal effects of drugs that may identify mitochondrial toxicity, as well as for in vivo detection of potential beneficial drug effects. Representative results are provided for the chemicals paraquat, rotenone, oxaloacetate and for four firefly luciferase inhibitory compounds. The methodology can be scaled up to provide a platform for screening drug libraries for compounds capable of modulating mitochondrial function. Pre-clinical evaluation of drug toxicity is often carried out on immortalized cancerous human cell lines which derive ATP mostly from glycolysis and are often tolerant of mitochondrial toxicants.(4,5) In contrast, C. elegans depends on oxidative phosphorylation to sustain development into adulthood, drawing a parallel with humans and providing a unique opportunity for compound evaluation in the physiological context of a whole live multicellular organism.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere53083
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Issue number104
Early online date16 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • molecular biology
  • issue 104
  • model organisms
  • caenorhabditis elegans
  • cellular ATP
  • bioluminescence
  • firefly luciferase
  • biosensors
  • drug screening
  • electron transport chain
  • complex I
  • mitochondria


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