Multiple Microtubule Tracking in Microscopy Time-Lapse Images Using Piecewise-stationary Multiple Motion Model Kalman Smoother Academic Article uri icon


  • Microtubules are inherently dynamic sub-cellular filamentuous polymers that are spatially organized within the cell by motor proteins which cross-link and move microtubules. In-vitro microtubule motility assays, in which motors attached to a surface move microtubules along it, have been used traditionally to study motor function. However, the way in which microtubule-microtubule interactions affect microtubule movement remains largely unexplored. To address this question, time-lapse image series of in-vitro microtubule motility assays were obtained using total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy. Categorized as a general problem of multiple object tracking (MOT), particular challenges arising in this project include low feature diversity, dynamic instability, sudden changes in microtubules motility patterns, as well as their instantaneous appearance/disappearance. This work describes a new application of piecewise-stationary multiple motion model Kalman smoother (PMMS) for modeling individual microtubules motility trends. To both evaluate the capability of this procedure and optimize its hyper-parameters, a large dataset simulating the series of time-lapse images was used first. Next, we applied it to the sequence of frames from the real data. Results of our analyses provide a quantitative description of microtubule velocity which, in turn, enumerates the occurrence of microtubule-microtubule interactions per frame.