Three-dimensional segmentation of nuclei and mitotic chromosomes for the study of cell divisions in live Drosophila embryos

Cytometry A. 2012 Jan;81(1):52-64. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.21164. Epub 2011 Nov 8.


Drosophila embryogenesis is an established model to investigate mechanisms and genes related to cell divisions in an intact multicellular organism. Progression through the cell cycle phases can be monitored in vivo using fluorescently labeled fusion proteins and time-lapse microscopy. To measure cellular properties in microscopic images, accurate and fast image segmentation methods are a critical prerequisite. To quantify static and dynamic features of interphase nuclei and mitotic chromosomes, we developed a three-dimensional (3D) segmentation method based on multiple level sets. We tested our method on 3D time-series images of live embryos expressing histone-2Av-green fluorescence protein. Our method is robust to low signal-to-noise ratios inherent to high-speed imaging, fluorescent signals in the cytoplasm, and dynamic changes of shape and texture. Comparisons with manual ground-truth segmentations showed that our method achieves more than 90% accuracy on the object as well as voxel levels and performs consistently throughout all cell cycle phases and developmental stages from syncytial blastoderm to postblastoderm mitotic domains.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division*
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure*
  • Chromosomes, Insect / ultrastructure*
  • Drosophila / embryology*
  • Drosophila / ultrastructure
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods