The long cellular architecture of neurons requires regulation in part through transport and anchoring events to distribute intracellular organelles. During development, cellular and sub-cellular events such as organelle additions and their recruitment at specific sites on the growing axons occur over different time scales and often show inter-animal variability thus making it difficult to identify specific phenomena in population averages. To measure the variability in sub-cellular events such as organelle positions, we developed a microfluidic device to feed and immobilize C. elegans for high-resolution imaging over several days. The microfluidic device enabled long-term imaging of individual animals and allowed us to investigate organelle density using mitochondria as a testbed in a growing neuronal process in vivo. Sub-cellular imaging of an individual neuron in multiple animals, over 36 hours in our microfluidic device, shows the addition of new mitochondria along the neuronal process and an increase in the accumulation of synaptic vesicles at synapses, both organelles with important roles in neurons. Long-term imaging of individual C. elegans touch receptor neurons identifies addition of new mitochondria and interacts with other moving mitochondria only through fission and fusion events. The addition of new mitochondria takes place along the entire neuronal process length and the threshold for the addition of a new mitochondrion is when the average separation between the two pre-existing mitochondria exceeds 24 micrometers.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience