Reconstructing the Forest of Lineage Trees of Diverse Bacterial Communities Using Bio-inspired Image Analysis

Athanasios D. Balomenos, Elias S. Manolakos

Cell segmentation and tracking allow us to extract a plethora of cell attributes from bacterial time-lapse cell movies, thus promoting computational modeling and simulation of biological processes down to the single-cell level. However, to analyze successfully complex cell movies, imaging multiple interacting bacterial clones as they grow and merge to generate overcrowded bacterial communities with thousands of cells in the field of view, segmentation results should be near perfect to warrant good tracking results. We introduce here a fully automated closed-loop bio-inspired computational strategy that exploits prior knowledge about the expected structure of a colony's lineage tree to locate and correct segmentation errors in analyzed movie frames. We show that this correction strategy is effective, resulting in improved cell tracking and consequently trustworthy deep colony lineage trees. Our image analysis approach has the unique capability to keep tracking cells even after clonal subpopulations merge in the movie. This enables the reconstruction of the complete Forest of Lineage Trees (FLT) representation of evolving multi-clonal bacterial communities. Moreover, the percentage of valid cell trajectories extracted from the image analysis almost doubles after segmentation correction. This plethora of trustworthy data extracted from a complex cell movie analysis enables single-cell analytics as a tool for addressing compelling questions for human health, such as understanding the role of single-cell stochasticity in antibiotics resistance without losing site of the inter-cellular interactions and microenvironment effects that may shape it.

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