PloS one

A low percent ethanol method for immobilizing planarians.

PMID 21179478


Planarians have recently become a popular model system for the study of adult stem cells, regeneration and polarity. The system is attractive for both undergraduate and graduate research labs, since planarian colonies are low cost and easy to maintain. Also in situ hybridization, immunofluorescence and RNA-interference (RNAi) gene knockdown techniques have been developed for planarian studies. However, imaging of live worms (particularly at high magnifications) is difficult because animals are strongly photophobic; they quickly move away from light sources and out of frame. The current methods available to inhibit movement in planarians include RNAi injection and exposure to cold temperatures. The former is labor and time intensive, while the latter precludes the use of many fluorescent reporter dyes. Here, we report a simple, inexpensive and reversible method to immobilize planarians for live imaging. Our data show that a short 1 hour treatment with 3% ethanol (EtOH) is sufficient to inhibit both the fine and gross movements of Schmidtea mediterranea planarians, of the typical size used (4-6 mm), with full recovery of movement within 3-4 hours. Importantly, EtOH treatment did not interfere with regeneration, even after repeated exposure, nor lyse epithelial cells (as assayed by H&E staining). We demonstrate that a short exposure to a low concentration of EtOH is a quick and effective method of immobilizing planarians, one that is easily adaptable to planarians of all sizes and will increase the accessibility of live imaging assays to planarian researchers.