Population Selection and Sequencing of Caenorhabditis elegans Wild Isolates Identifies a Region on Chromosome III Affecting Starvation Resistance

Amy K. Webster, Anthony Hung, Brad T. Moore, Ryan Guzman, James M. Jordan, Rebecca E.W. Kaplan, Jonathan D. Hibshman, Robyn E. Tanny, Daniel E. Cook, Erik Andersen, L. Ryan Baugh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


To understand the genetic basis of complex traits, it is important to be able to efficiently phenotype many genetically distinct individuals. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, individuals have been isolated from diverse populations around the globe and whole-genome sequenced. As a result, hundreds of wild strains with known genome sequences can be used for genome-wide association studies (GWAS). However, phenotypic analysis of these strains can be laborious, particularly for quantitative traits requiring multiple measurements per strain. Starvation resistance is likely a fitness-proximal trait for nematodes, and it is related to metabolic disease risk in humans. However, natural variation in C. elegans starvation resistance has not been systematically characterized, and precise measurement of the trait is time-intensive. Here, we developed a population-selection-and-sequencing-based approach to phenotype starvation resistance in a pool of 96 wild strains. We used restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) to infer the frequency of each strain among survivors in a mixed culture over time during starvation. We used manual starvation survival assays to validate the trait data, confirming that strains that increased in frequency over time are starvation-resistant relative to strains that decreased in frequency. Further, we found that variation in starvation resistance is significantly associated with variation at a region on chromosome III. Using a near-isogenic line (NIL), we showed the importance of this genomic interval for starvation resistance. This study demonstrates the feasibility of using population selection and sequencing in an animal model for phenotypic analysis of quantitative traits, documents natural variation of starvation resistance in C. elegans, and identifies a genomic region that contributes to such variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3477-3488
Number of pages12
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Diapause
  • GWAS
  • L1 arrest
  • Population sequencing
  • RAD-seq
  • Starvation resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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