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MAPLE (Modular Automated Platform for Large-scale Experiments), a robot for integrated organism-handling and phenotyping

  1. Tom Alisch
  2. James D Crall
  3. Albert B Kao
  4. Dave Zucker
  5. Benjamin L de Bivort  Is a corresponding author
  1. Harvard University, United States
  2. FlySorter LLC, United States
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Cite this article as: eLife 2018;7:e37166 doi: 10.7554/eLife.37166

Abstract

Lab organisms are valuable in part because of large-scale experiments like screens, but performing such experiments over long time periods by hand is arduous and error-prone. Organism-handling robots could revolutionize large-scale experiments in the way that liquid-handling robots accelerated molecular biology. We developed a Modular Automated Platform for Large-scale Experiments (MAPLE), an organism-handling robot capable of conducting lab tasks and experiments, and then deployed it to conduct common experiments in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Caenorhabditis elegans, Physarum polycephalum, Bombus impatiens, and Drosophila melanogaster. Focusing on fruit flies, we developed a suite of experimental modules that permitted the automated collection of virgin females and execution of an intricate and laborious social behavior experiment. We discovered that 1) pairs of flies exhibit persistent idiosyncrasies in social behavior, which 2) require olfaction and vision, and 3) social interaction network structure is stable over days. These diverse examples demonstrate MAPLE's versatility for automating experimental biology.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Tom Alisch

    Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, United States
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  2. James D Crall

    Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, United States
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-8981-3782
  3. Albert B Kao

    Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, United States
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  4. Dave Zucker

    FlySorter LLC, Seattle, United States
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  5. Benjamin L de Bivort

    Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, United States
    For correspondence
    debivort@oeb.harvard.edu
    Competing interests
    Benjamin L de Bivort, Benjamin de Bivort is on the scientific advisory board of FlySorter, LLC..
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-6165-7696

Funding

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

  • Benjamin L de Bivort

Esther A. and Joseph Klingenstein Fund

  • Benjamin L de Bivort

National Science Foundation

  • Benjamin L de Bivort

Winslow Foundation

  • James D Crall

James S. McDonnell Foundation

  • Albert B Kao

National Institutes of Health

  • Dave Zucker

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Ronald L Calabrese, Emory University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: March 31, 2018
  2. Accepted: August 11, 2018
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: August 17, 2018 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: October 18, 2018 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record updated: January 18, 2019 (version 3)

Copyright

© 2018, Alisch et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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