The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a powerful genetic model that can be used to investigate neuronal death. Research using C. elegans has been crucial to characterize cell death programmes that are conserved in mammals. Many neuronal signaling components, such as those mediating dopaminergic neurotransmission, are preserved as well. Dopaminergic neurons are progressively lost in Parkinson's disease and an important risk factor to develop this disease appears to be oxidative stress, the increased occurrence of highly reactive oxygen species. Oxidative stress-induced dopaminergic neurodegeneration is mimicked in animal models by treatment with 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA), a dopamine analog, which is specifically taken up into dopaminergic neurons. After exposing C. elegans to 6-OHDA, the loss of fluorescently labeled dopaminergic neurons can be easily monitored. An organisms' sensitivity to oxidative stress is thought to be influenced by basal levels of intrinsic oxidative stress and the ability to counteract oxidative stress and oxidative stress-induced damage. The C. elegans '6-OHDA model' led to the discovery of novel genes that are required to protect dopaminergic neurons and it has helped to determine the effects of conserved cell death and cell engulfment pathways in dopaminergic neurodegeneration. Here, we describe a simple protocol that allows for the easy detection of dopaminergic neuron loss after 6-OHDA treatment in C. elegans.
- C. elegans
- Caenorhabditis elegans
- Oxidative stress assay
- Dopaminergic neurodegeneration