Cell protrusion plays important roles in cell migration by pushing plasma membrane forward. Cryptic lamellipodia induce the protrusion of submarginal cells in collective cell migration where cells are attached and move together. Although computational image analysis of cell protrusion has been done extensively, the study on protrusion activities of cryptic lamellipodia is limited due to difficulties in image segmentation. This study seeks to aid in the computational analysis of submarginal cell protrusion in collective cell migration by using deep learning to detect the cryptic lamellipodial edges from fluorescence time-lapse movies. Due to the noisy features within overlapping cells, the conventional image analysis algorithms such as Canny edge detector and intensity thresholding are limited. By combining Canny edge detector, Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), and local intensity thresholding, we were able to detect cryptic lamellipodial edges of submarginal cells with high accuracy from the fluorescence time-lapse movies of PtK1 cells stained with a plasma membrane marker. We used relatively small effort to prepare the training set to train the CNN to detect the cryptical lamellipodial edges in fluorescence time-lapse movies. This work demonstrates that deep learning can be combined with the conventional image analysis algorithms to facilitate the computational analysis of highly complex time-lapse movies of collective cell migration.
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