Supplemental Material for Spensley et al., 2018

Many drugs act very rapidly; they can turn on or off their targets within minutes in a whole animal. What are the acute effects of drug treatment and how does an animal respond to these? We developed a simple assay to measure the acute effects of drugs on C. elegans movement and examined the effects of a range of compounds including neuroactive drugs, toxins, environmental stresses and novel compounds on worm movement over a time period of 3 hours. We find that many treatments show complex acute responses, where a phase of rapid paralysis is followed by one or more recovery phases. The recoveries are not the result of some generic stress response but are specific to the drug e.g. recovery from paralysis due to a neuroactive drug requires neurotransmitter pathways whereas recovery from a metabolic inhibitor requires metabolic changes. Finally, we also find that acute responses can vary greatly across development and that there is extensive and complex natural variation in acute responses. In summary, acute responses are sensitive probes of the ability of biological networks to respond to drug treatment and these responses can reveal the action of unexplored pathways.