Motivation: The arbor morphologies of brain microglia are important indicators of cell activation. This article fills the need for accurate, robust, adaptive and scalable methods for reconstructing 3-D microglial arbors and quantitatively mapping microglia activation states over extended brain tissue regions.
Results: Thick rat brain sections (100-300 µm) were multiplex immunolabeled for IBA1 and Hoechst, and imaged by step-and-image confocal microscopy with automated 3-D image mosaicing, producing seamless images of extended brain regions (e.g. 5903 × 9874 × 229 voxels). An over-complete dictionary-based model was learned for the image-specific local structure of microglial processes. The microglial arbors were reconstructed seamlessly using an automated and scalable algorithm that exploits microglia-specific constraints. This method detected 80.1 and 92.8% more centered arbor points, and 53.5 and 55.5% fewer spurious points than existing vesselness and LoG-based methods, respectively, and the traces were 13.1 and 15.5% more accurate based on the DIADEM metric. The arbor morphologies were quantified using Scorcioni's L-measure. Coifman's harmonic co-clustering revealed four morphologically distinct classes that concord with known microglia activation patterns. This enabled us to map spatial distributions of microglial activation and cell abundances.
Availability and implementation: Experimental protocols, sample datasets, scalable open-source multi-threaded software implementation (C++, MATLAB) in the electronic supplement, and website (www.farsight-toolkit.org). http://www.farsight-toolkit.org/wiki/Population-scale_Three-dimensional_Reconstruction_and_Quanti-tative_Profiling_of_Microglia_Arbors
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
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