Morphometrics of complex cell shapes: lobe contribution elliptic Fourier analysis (LOCO-EFA)

Development. 2018 Mar 20;145(6):dev156778. doi: 10.1242/dev.156778.


Quantifying cell morphology is fundamental to the statistical study of cell populations, and can help unravel mechanisms underlying cell and tissue morphogenesis. Current methods, however, require extensive human intervention, are highly parameter sensitive, or produce metrics that are difficult to interpret biologically. We therefore developed a method, lobe contribution elliptical Fourier analysis (LOCO-EFA), which generates from digitalised two-dimensional cell outlines meaningful descriptors that can be directly matched to morphological features. This is shown by studying well-defined geometric shapes as well as actual biological cells from plant and animal tissues. LOCO-EFA provides a tool to phenotype efficiently and objectively populations of cells, here demonstrated by applying it to the complex shaped pavement cells of Arabidopsis thaliana wild-type and speechless leaves, and Drosophila amnioserosa cells. To validate our method's applicability to large populations, we analysed computer-generated tissues. By controlling in silico cell shape, we explored the potential impact of cell packing on individual cell shape, quantifying through LOCO-EFA deviations between the specified shape of single cells in isolation and the resultant shape when they interact within a confluent tissue.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; Cell shape; Cellular Potts model; Drosophila; Image analysis; Pavement cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arabidopsis / cytology
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Cell Shape*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Drosophila / cytology
  • Fourier Analysis*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Morphogenesis*
  • Phenotype
  • Plant Cells
  • Plant Leaves / cytology


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • SPEECHLESS protein, Arabidopsis