A nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is a filter feeder, which draws a suspension of bacteria and separates bacteria from the solvent by using pharyngeal pumping motions and specific mouth parts. This mechanism has not been fully understood. We investigated the mechanism of filtering of bacteria in the pharynx of C. elegans by visualization by fluorescent particles and dyed E. coli. We succeeded in quantifying the selectivity of bacteria-sized particles by C. elegans. The most accumulated particles were those of 0.5 μm in diameter. The quantity of accumulated particles of 0.2 μm or 1.0 μm in diameter was about one third of that of particles of 0.5 μm in diameter. The least accumulated particles were those of 0.05 μm in diameter. These results suggest that the pharyngeal structures of C. elegans would be suitable for eating bacteria because the size of bacteria ingested by C. elegans worms is about 0.5 μm in diameter. We also succeeded in visualizing pharyngeal structures and pumping motions and flow in the pharynx. We found that there were phase differences in the motions among procorpus, metacorpus and isthmus. This result suggests filtering would occur at the two tips of procorpus and isthmus by the phase differences. We found that bacteria-sized particles and bacteria were flowed and trapped in the channels, which existed along the central lumen from tip of procorpus to isthmus. From our results, we proposed the novel mechanism of filtering of bacteria through the channels for flowing and trapping. In future, this selective filtering mechanism of C. elegans would be applied to development of microfluidic filtration devices for medical and biological equipment.
- C. elegans