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BMC Bioinformatics. 2012;13 Suppl 17:S14. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-13-S17-S14. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

The study of muscle remodeling in Drosophila metamorphosis using in vivo microscopy and bioimage informatics.

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Live-Cell Imaging and Automation of Image Analysis Group, Imaging Informatics Division, Bioinformatics Institute (BII), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore.



Metamorphosis in insects transforms the larval into an adult body plan and comprises the destruction and remodeling of larval and the generation of adult tissues. The remodeling of larval into adult muscles promises to be a genetic model for human atrophy since it is associated with dramatic alteration in cell size. Furthermore, muscle development is amenable to 3D in vivo microscopy at high cellular resolution. However, multi-dimensional image acquisition leads to sizeable amounts of data that demand novel approaches in image processing and analysis.


To handle, visualize and quantify time-lapse datasets recorded in multiple locations, we designed a workflow comprising three major modules. First, the previously introduced TLM-converter concatenates stacks of single time-points. The second module, TLM-2D-Explorer, creates maximum intensity projections for rapid inspection and allows the temporal alignment of multiple datasets. The transition between prepupal and pupal stage serves as reference point to compare datasets of different genotypes or treatments. We demonstrate how the temporal alignment can reveal novel insights into the east gene which is involved in muscle remodeling. The third module, TLM-3D-Segmenter, performs semi-automated segmentation of selected muscle fibers over multiple frames. 3D image segmentation consists of 3 stages. First, the user places a seed into a muscle of a key frame and performs surface detection based on level-set evolution. Second, the surface is propagated to subsequent frames. Third, automated segmentation detects nuclei inside the muscle fiber. The detected surfaces can be used to visualize and quantify the dynamics of cellular remodeling. To estimate the accuracy of our segmentation method, we performed a comparison with a manually created ground truth. Key and predicted frames achieved a performance of 84% and 80%, respectively.


We describe an analysis pipeline for the efficient handling and analysis of time-series microscopy data that enhances productivity and facilitates the phenotypic characterization of genetic perturbations. Our methodology can easily be scaled up for genome-wide genetic screens using readily available resources for RNAi based gene silencing in Drosophila and other animal models.

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