Statistical image processing quantifies the changes in cytoplasmic texture associated with aging in Caenorhabditis elegans oocytes

BMC Bioinformatics. 2021 Feb 17;22(1):73. doi: 10.1186/s12859-021-03990-3.


Background: Oocyte quality decreases with aging, thereby increasing errors in fertilization, chromosome segregation, and embryonic cleavage. Oocyte appearance also changes with aging, suggesting a functional relationship between oocyte quality and appearance. However, no methods are available to objectively quantify age-associated changes in oocyte appearance.

Results: We show that statistical image processing of Nomarski differential interference contrast microscopy images can be used to quantify age-associated changes in oocyte appearance in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Max-min value (mean difference between the maximum and minimum intensities within each moving window) quantitatively characterized the difference in oocyte cytoplasmic texture between 1- and 3-day-old adults (Day 1 and Day 3 oocytes, respectively). With an appropriate parameter set, the gray level co-occurrence matrix (GLCM)-based texture feature Correlation (COR) more sensitively characterized this difference than the Max-min Value. Manipulating the smoothness of and/or adding irregular structures to the cytoplasmic texture of Day 1 oocyte images reproduced the difference in Max-min Value but not in COR between Day 1 and Day 3 oocytes. Increasing the size of granules in synthetic images recapitulated the age-associated changes in COR. Manual measurements validated that the cytoplasmic granules in oocytes become larger with aging.

Conclusions: The Max-min value and COR objectively quantify age-related changes in C. elegans oocyte in Nomarski DIC microscopy images. Our methods provide new opportunities for understanding the mechanism underlying oocyte aging.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; Gray level co-occurrence matrix; Image texture analysis; Nomarski DIC microscopy; Oocyte aging; Statistical image processing.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans*
  • Chromosome Segregation
  • Oocytes


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins