Morphometric analysis of actin networks

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Morphometric analysis of actin networks


Akenuwa, O. H.; Gu, J.; Nebenfuhr, A.; Abel, S. M.


The organization of cytoskeletal elements is pivotal for coordinating intracellular transport in eukaryotic cells. Several quantitative measures based on image analysis have been proposed to characterize morphometric features of fluorescently labeled actin networks. While helpful in detecting differences in actin organization between treatments or genotypes, the accuracy of these measures could not be rigorously assessed due to a lack of ground-truth data to which they could be compared. To overcome this limitation, we utilized coarse-grained computer simulations of actin filaments and crosslinkers to generate synthetic actin networks with varying levels of bundling. We converted the simulated networks into pseudo-fluorescence images similar to images obtained using confocal microscopy. Using both published and novel analysis procedures, we extracted a series of morphometric parameters and benchmarked them against analogous measures based on the ground-truth actin configurations. Our analysis revealed a set of parameters that reliably reports on actin network density, orientation, ordering, and bundling. Application of these morphometric parameters to root epidermal cells of Arabidopsis thaliana revealed subtle changes in network organization between wild-type and mutant cells. This work provides robust measures that can be used to quantify features of actin networks and characterize changes in actin organization for different experimental conditions.

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