The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is a popular invertebrate model organism due to the powerful genetic tools available and the fact that it is easy and inexpensive to keep C. elegans in culture.
C. elegans can exist as either hermaphrodites or males. The adult hermaphrodite is approximately 1.2 mm long and has a total of 959 cells of which 302 are neurons. Development from egg to adult is completed in 3 days, and each adult lays 300 eggs. The average lifespan is approximate 3 weeks when cultured at 20°C.
Gene inactivation can be obtained either by mutation or RNA interference. A wide range of mutants is available and furthermore it is inexpensive and relatively easy to inactivate genes using RNAi. The nematodes feed on bacteria and gene inactivation can be obtained by feeding them bacteria expressing dsRNA targeting the gene of interest.
Gene overexpression is more laborious but transgenic animals can be made by microinjection or gene gun bombardment. Tissue specific expression can be obtained using appropriate promoters. For generation of transgenic animals Gateway compatible vectors are available and the transparency of the worms allows for detection of fluorescence in live animals.
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