Amoeboid cell motility is essential for a wide range of biological processes including wound healing, embryonic morphogenesis, and cancer metastasis. It relies on complex dynamical patterns of cell shape changes that pose long-standing challenges to mathematical modeling and raise a need for automated and reproducible approaches to extract quantitative morphological features from image sequences. Here, we introduce a theoretical framework and a computational method for obtaining smooth representations of the spatiotemporal contour dynamics from stacks of segmented microscopy images. Based on a Gaussian process regression we propose a one-parameter family of regularized contour flows that allows us to continuously track reference points (virtual markers) between successive cell contours. We use this approach to define a coordinate system on the moving cell boundary and to represent different local geometric quantities in this frame of reference. In particular, we introduce the local marker dispersion as a measure to identify localized membrane expansions and provide a fully automated way to extract the properties of such expansions, including their area and growth time. The methods are available as an open-source software package called AmoePy, a Python-based toolbox for analyzing amoeboid cell motility (based on time-lapse microscopy data), including a graphical user interface and detailed documentation. Due to the mathematical rigor of our framework, we envision it to be of use for the development of novel cell motility models. We mainly use experimental data of the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum to illustrate and validate our approach.
PLoS Computational Biology
- Pub Date:
- August 2021
- Quantitative Biology - Cell Behavior;
- Quantitative Biology - Quantitative Methods
- 31 pages, 12 figures, updated version after publication (see 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009268), for supporting information, see 10.5281/zenodo.3984179, for software and data publication, see 10.5281/zenodo.3982371 and 10.5061/dryad.b5mkkwhbd