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Direct observation of stress response in Caenorhabditis elegans using a reporter transgene.

Link CD, Cypser JR, Johnson CJ, Johnson TE.
Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado Boulder 80309-0447, USA.

Transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans expressing jellyfish Green Fluorescent Protein under the control of the promoter for the inducible small heat shock protein gene hsp-16-2 have been constructed. Transgene expression parallels that of the endogenous hsp-16 gene, and, therefore, allows direct visualization, localization, and quantitation of hsp-16 expression in living animals. In addition to the expected upregulation by heat shock, we show that a variety of stresses, including exposure to superoxide-generating redox-cycling quinones and the expression of the human beta amyloid peptide, specifically induce the reporter transgene. The quinone induction is suppressed by coincubation with L-ascorbate. The ability to directly observe the stress response in living animals significantly simplifies the identification of both exogenous treatments and genetic alterations that modulate stress response, and possibly life span, in C. elegans.