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Keywords:

  • cell tracking;
  • fluorescent microscopy;
  • hybrid image filters;
  • image masking;
  • image segmentation;
  • single-cell lineage tracking

Abstract

An increasingly common component of studies in synthetic and systems biology is analysis of dynamics of gene expression at the single-cell level, a context that is heavily dependent on the use of time-lapse movies. Extracting quantitative data on the single-cell temporal dynamics from such movies remains a major challenge. Here, we describe novel methods for automating key steps in the analysis of single-cell, fluorescent images—segmentation and lineage reconstruction—to recognize and track individual cells over time. The automated analysis iteratively combines a set of extended morphological methods for segmentation, and uses a neighborhood-based scoring method for frame-to-frame lineage linking. Our studies with bacteria, budding yeast and human cells, demonstrate the portability and usability of these methods, whether using phase, bright field or fluorescent images. These examples also demonstrate the utility of our integrated approach in facilitating analyses of engineered and natural cellular networks in diverse settings. The automated methods are implemented in freely available, open-source software. © 2009 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry