Publication — IRIC
CentTracker: a trainable, machine learning-based tool for large-scale analyses of C. elegans germline stem cell mitosis.
Investigating the complex interactions between stem cells and their native environment requires an efficient means to image them in situ. Caenorhabditis elegans germline stem cells (GSCs) are distinctly accessible for intravital imaging; however, long-term image acquisition and analysis of dividing GSCs can be technically challenging. Here we present a systematic investigation into the technical factors impacting GSC physiology during live imaging and provide an optimized method for monitoring GSC mitosis under minimally disruptive conditions. We describe CentTracker, an automated and generalizable image analysis tool that uses machine learning to pair mitotic centrosomes and which can extract a variety of mitotic parameters rapidly from large-scale datasets. We employ CentTracker to assess a range of mitotic features in a large GSC data set. We observe spatial clustering of mitoses within the germline tissue, but no evidence that subpopulations with distinct mitotic profiles exist within the stem cell pool. We further find biases in GSC spindle orientation relative to the germline’s distal-proximal axis, and thus the niche. The technical and analytical tools provided herein pave the way for large-scale screening studies of multiple mitotic processes in GSCs dividing in situ, in an intact tissue, in a living animal, under seemingly physiological conditions.