STSE: Spatio-Temporal Simulation Environment Dedicated to Biology

BMC Bioinformatics. 2011 Apr 28:12:126. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-12-126.


Background: Recently, the availability of high-resolution microscopy together with the advancements in the development of biomarkers as reporters of biomolecular interactions increased the importance of imaging methods in molecular cell biology. These techniques enable the investigation of cellular characteristics like volume, size and geometry as well as volume and geometry of intracellular compartments, and the amount of existing proteins in a spatially resolved manner. Such detailed investigations opened up many new areas of research in the study of spatial, complex and dynamic cellular systems. One of the crucial challenges for the study of such systems is the design of a well stuctured and optimized workflow to provide a systematic and efficient hypothesis verification. Computer Science can efficiently address this task by providing software that facilitates handling, analysis, and evaluation of biological data to the benefit of experimenters and modelers.

Results: The Spatio-Temporal Simulation Environment (STSE) is a set of open-source tools provided to conduct spatio-temporal simulations in discrete structures based on microscopy images. The framework contains modules to digitize, represent, analyze, and mathematically model spatial distributions of biochemical species. Graphical user interface (GUI) tools provided with the software enable meshing of the simulation space based on the Voronoi concept. In addition, it supports to automatically acquire spatial information to the mesh from the images based on pixel luminosity (e.g. corresponding to molecular levels from microscopy images). STSE is freely available either as a stand-alone version or included in the linux live distribution Systems Biology Operational Software (SB.OS) and can be downloaded from The Python source code as well as a comprehensive user manual and video tutorials are also offered to the research community. We discuss main concepts of the STSE design and workflow. We demonstrate it's usefulness using the example of a signaling cascade leading to formation of a morphological gradient of Fus3 within the cytoplasm of the mating yeast cell Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Conclusions: STSE is an efficient and powerful novel platform, designed for computational handling and evaluation of microscopic images. It allows for an uninterrupted workflow including digitization, representation, analysis, and mathematical modeling. By providing the means to relate the simulation to the image data it allows for systematic, image driven model validation or rejection. STSE can be scripted and extended using the Python language. STSE should be considered rather as an API together with workflow guidelines and a collection of GUI tools than a stand alone application. The priority of the project is to provide an easy and intuitive way of extending and customizing software using the Python language.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Microscopy / methods
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Software*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • FUS3 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases