Cega: a single particle segmentation algorithm to identify moving particles in a noisy system

Mol Biol Cell. 2021 Apr 19;32(9):931-941. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E20-11-0744. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


Improvements to particle tracking algorithms are required to effectively analyze the motility of biological molecules in complex or noisy systems. A typical single particle tracking (SPT) algorithm detects particle coordinates for trajectory assembly. However, particle detection filters fail for data sets with low signal-to-noise levels. When tracking molecular motors in complex systems, standard techniques often fail to separate the fluorescent signatures of moving particles from background signal. We developed an approach to analyze the motility of kinesin motor proteins moving along the microtubule cytoskeleton of extracted neurons using the Kullback-Leibler divergence to identify regions where there are significant differences between models of moving particles and background signal. We tested our software on both simulated and experimental data and found a noticeable improvement in SPT capability and a higher identification rate of motors as compared with current methods. This algorithm, called Cega, for "find the object," produces data amenable to conventional blob detection techniques that can then be used to obtain coordinates for downstream SPT processing. We anticipate that this algorithm will be useful for those interested in tracking moving particles in complex in vitro or in vivo environments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Artifacts
  • Computer Simulation
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Kinesins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Single Molecule Imaging / methods*
  • Software


  • Kinesins