Dimchev, Georgi / Amiri, Behnam / Fäßler, Florian / Falcke, Martin / Schur, Florian Km. Computational toolbox for ultrastructural quantitative analysis of filament networks in cryo-ET data. 2021, J. structural biology, 213: 107808
A precise quantitative description of the ultrastructural characteristics underlying biological mechanisms is often key to their understanding. This is particularly true for dynamic extra- and intracellular filamentous assemblies, playing a role in cell motility, cell integrity, cytokinesis, tissue formation and maintenance. For example, genetic manipulation or modulation of actin regulatory proteins frequently manifests in changes of the morphology, dynamics, and ultrastructural architecture of actin filament-rich cell peripheral structures, such as lamellipodia or filopodia. However, the observed ultrastructural effects often remain subtle and require sufficiently large datasets for appropriate quantitative analysis. The acquisition of such large datasets has been enabled by recent advances in high-throughput cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) methods. This also necessitates the development of complementary approaches to maximize the extraction of relevant biological information. We have developed a computational toolbox for the semi-automatic quantification of segmented and vectorized filamentous networks from pre-processed cryo-electron tomograms, facilitating the analysis and cross-comparison of multiple experimental conditions. GUI-based components simplify the processing of data and allow users to obtain a large number of ultrastructural parameters describing filamentous assemblies. We demonstrate the feasibility of this workflow by analyzing cryo-ET data of untreated and chemically perturbed branched actin filament networks and that of parallel actin filament arrays. In principle, the computational toolbox presented here is applicable for data analysis comprising any type of filaments in regular (i.e. parallel) or random arrangement. We show that it can ease the identification of key differences between experimental groups and facilitate the in-depth analysis of ultrastructural data in a time-efficient manner.