Single molecule super-resolution microscopy is a powerful tool that enables imaging at sub-diffraction-limit resolution. In this technique, subsets of stochastically photoactivated fluorophores are imaged over a sequence of frames and accurately localized, and the estimated locations are used to construct a high-resolution image of the cellular structures labeled by the fluorophores. Available localization methods typically first determine the regions of the image that contain emitting fluorophores through a process referred to as detection. Then, the locations of the fluorophores are estimated accurately in an estimation step. We propose a novel localization method which combines the detection and estimation steps. The method models the given image as the frequency response of a multi-order system obtained with a balanced state space realization algorithm based on the singular value decomposition of a Hankel matrix, and determines the locations of intensity peaks in the image as the pole locations of the resulting system. The locations of the most significant peaks correspond to the locations of single molecules in the original image. Although the accuracy of the location estimates is reasonably good, we demonstrate that, by using the estimates as the initial conditions for a maximum likelihood estimator, refined estimates can be obtained that have a standard deviation close to the Cramér-Rao lower bound-based limit of accuracy. We validate our method using both simulated and experimental multi-emitter images.
Keywords: Fluorescence microscopy; frequency response; multi-emitter localization; single molecule localization; single molecule microscopy; singular value decomposition; state space realization; super-resolution microscopy.