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Open Access Methodology article

Fast automated cell phenotype image classification

Nicholas A Hamilton123*, Radosav S Pantelic2, Kelly Hanson12 and Rohan D Teasdale12

Author Affiliations

1 ARC Centre in Bioinformatics, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia

2 Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia

3 Advanced Computational Modelling Centre, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:110  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-110

Published: 30 March 2007

Abstract

Background

The genomic revolution has led to rapid growth in sequencing of genes and proteins, and attention is now turning to the function of the encoded proteins. In this respect, microscope imaging of a protein's sub-cellular localisation is proving invaluable, and recent advances in automated fluorescent microscopy allow protein localisations to be imaged in high throughput. Hence there is a need for large scale automated computational techniques to efficiently quantify, distinguish and classify sub-cellular images. While image statistics have proved highly successful in distinguishing localisation, commonly used measures suffer from being relatively slow to compute, and often require cells to be individually selected from experimental images, thus limiting both throughput and the range of potential applications. Here we introduce threshold adjacency statistics, the essence which is to threshold the image and to count the number of above threshold pixels with a given number of above threshold pixels adjacent. These novel measures are shown to distinguish and classify images of distinct sub-cellular localization with high speed and accuracy without image cropping.

Results

Threshold adjacency statistics are applied to classification of protein sub-cellular localization images. They are tested on two image sets (available for download), one for which fluorescently tagged proteins are endogenously expressed in 10 sub-cellular locations, and another for which proteins are transfected into 11 locations. For each image set, a support vector machine was trained and tested. Classification accuracies of 94.4% and 86.6% are obtained on the endogenous and transfected sets, respectively. Threshold adjacency statistics are found to provide comparable or higher accuracy than other commonly used statistics while being an order of magnitude faster to calculate. Further, threshold adjacency statistics in combination with Haralick measures give accuracies of 98.2% and 93.2% on the endogenous and transfected sets, respectively.

Conclusion

Threshold adjacency statistics have the potential to greatly extend the scale and range of applications of image statistics in computational image analysis. They remove the need for cropping of individual cells from images, and are an order of magnitude faster to calculate than other commonly used statistics while providing comparable or better classification accuracy, both essential requirements for application to large-scale approaches.