A method for characterizing phenotypic changes in highly variable cell populations and its application to high content screening of Arabidopsis thaliana protoplasts

Cytometry A. 2017 Apr;91(4):326-335. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.23067. Epub 2017 Feb 28.


Quantitative image analysis procedures are necessary for the automated discovery of effects of drug treatment in large collections of fluorescent micrographs. When compared to their mammalian counterparts, the effects of drug conditions on protein localization in plant species are poorly understood and underexplored. To investigate this relationship, we generated a large collection of images of single plant cells after various drug treatments. For this, protoplasts were isolated from six transgenic lines of A. thaliana expressing fluorescently tagged proteins. Eight drugs at three concentrations were applied to protoplast cultures followed by automated image acquisition. For image analysis, we developed a cell segmentation protocol for detecting drug effects using a Hough transform-based region of interest detector and a novel cross-channel texture feature descriptor. In order to determine treatment effects, we summarized differences between treated and untreated experiments with an L1 Cramér-von Mises statistic. The distribution of these statistics across all pairs of treated and untreated replicates was compared to the variation within control replicates to determine the statistical significance of observed effects. Using this pipeline, we report the dose dependent drug effects in the first high-content Arabidopsis thaliana drug screen of its kind. These results can function as a baseline for comparison to other protein organization modeling approaches in plant cells. © 2017 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry.

Keywords: cellular heterogeneity; fluorescence microscopy; high content screening; subcellular location.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis* / drug effects
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Phenotype
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Protoplasts* / drug effects