Automatic extraction of nuclei centroids of mouse embryonic cells from fluorescence microscopy images

PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e35550. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035550. Epub 2012 May 8.


Accurate identification of cell nuclei and their tracking using three dimensional (3D) microscopic images is a demanding task in many biological studies. Manual identification of nuclei centroids from images is an error-prone task, sometimes impossible to accomplish due to low contrast and the presence of noise. Nonetheless, only a few methods are available for 3D bioimaging applications, which sharply contrast with 2D analysis, where many methods already exist. In addition, most methods essentially adopt segmentation for which a reliable solution is still unknown, especially for 3D bio-images having juxtaposed cells. In this work, we propose a new method that can directly extract nuclei centroids from fluorescence microscopy images. This method involves three steps: (i) Pre-processing, (ii) Local enhancement, and (iii) Centroid extraction. The first step includes two variations: first variation (Variant-1) uses the whole 3D pre-processed image, whereas the second one (Variant-2) modifies the preprocessed image to the candidate regions or the candidate hybrid image for further processing. At the second step, a multiscale cube filtering is employed in order to locally enhance the pre-processed image. Centroid extraction in the third step consists of three stages. In Stage-1, we compute a local characteristic ratio at every voxel and extract local maxima regions as candidate centroids using a ratio threshold. Stage-2 processing removes spurious centroids from Stage-1 results by analyzing shapes of intensity profiles from the enhanced image. An iterative procedure based on the nearest neighborhood principle is then proposed to combine if there are fragmented nuclei. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses on a set of 100 images of 3D mouse embryo are performed. Investigations reveal a promising achievement of the technique presented in terms of average sensitivity and precision (i.e., 88.04% and 91.30% for Variant-1; 86.19% and 95.00% for Variant-2), when compared with an existing method (86.06% and 90.11%), originally developed for analyzing C. elegans images.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods