Medium-throughput processing of whole mount in situ hybridisation experiments into gene expression domains
Public Library of Science
© 2012 Crombach et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Understanding the function and evolution of developmental regulatory networks requires the characterisation and quantification of spatio-temporal gene expression patterns across a range of systems and species. However, most high-throughput methods to measure the dynamics of gene expression do not preserve the detailed spatial information needed in this context. For this reason, quantification methods based on image bioinformatics have become increasingly important over the past few years. Most available approaches in this field either focus on the detailed and accurate quantification of a small set of gene expression patterns, or attempt high-throughput analysis of spatial expression through binary pattern extraction and large-scale analysis of the resulting datasets. Here we present a robust, "medium-throughput" pipeline to process in situ hybridisation patterns from embryos of different species of flies. It bridges the gap between high-resolution, and high-throughput image processing methods, enabling us to quantify graded expression patterns along the antero-posterior axis of the embryo in an efficient and straightforward manner. Our method is based on a robust enzymatic (colorimetric) in situ hybridisation protocol and rapid data acquisition through wide-field microscopy. Data processing consists of image segmentation, profile extraction, and determination of expression domain boundary positions using a spline approximation. It results in sets of measured boundaries sorted by gene and developmental time point, which are analysed in terms of expression variability or spatio-temporal dynamics. Our method yields integrated time series of spatial gene expression, which can be used to reverse-engineer developmental gene regulatory networks across species. It is easily adaptable to other processes and species, enabling the in silico reconstitution of gene regulatory networks in a wide range of developmental contexts.
The laboratory of Johannes Jaeger and this study in particular was funded by the MEC-EMBL agreement for the EMBL/CRG Research Unit in Systems Biology, by grant 153 (MOPDEV) of the ERANet: ComplexityNET program, by SGR grant 406 from the Catalan funding agency AGAUR, by grant BFU2009-10184 from the Spanish Ministry of Science, and by European Commission grant FP7-KBBE-2011-5/289434 (BioPreDyn).
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Vol. 7, e46658
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