Tracking single particles: a user-friendly quantitative evaluation

Physical Biology
Brian C CarterSteven P Gross


As our knowledge of biological processes advances, we are increasingly aware that cells actively position sub-cellular organelles and other constituents to control a wide range of biological processes. Many studies quantify the position and motion of, for example, fluorescently labeled proteins, protein aggregates, mRNA particles or virus particles. Both differential interference contrast (DIC) and fluorescence microscopy can visualize vesicles, nuclei or other small organelles moving inside cells. While such studies are increasingly important, there has been no complete analysis of the different tracking methods in use, especially from the practical point of view. Here we investigate these methods and clarify how well different algorithms work and also which factors play a role in assessing how accurately the position of an object can be determined. Specifically, we consider how ultimate performance is affected by magnification, by camera type (analog versus digital), by recording medium (VHS and SVHS tape versus direct tracking from camera), by image compression, by type of imaging used (fluorescence versus DIC images) and by a variety of sources of noise. We show that most methods are capable of nanometer scale accuracy unde...Continue Reading


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