Characterizing heterogeneous cellular responses to perturbations

Michael D. Slack, Elisabeth D. Martinez, Lani F. Wu, Steven J. Altschuler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

112 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cellular populations have been widely observed to respond heterogeneously to perturbation. However, interpreting the observed heterogeneity is an extremely challenging problem because of the complexity of possible cellular phenotypes, the large dimension of potential perturbations, and the lack of methods for separating meaningful biological information from noise. Here, we develop an image-based approach to characterize cellular phenotypes based on patterns of signaling marker colocalization. Heterogeneous cellular populations are characterized as mixtures of phenotypically distinct subpopulations, and responses to perturbations are summarized succinctly as probabilistic redistributions of these mixtures. We apply our method to characterize the heterogeneous responses of cancer cells to a panel of drugs. We find that cells treated with drugs of (dis-)similar mechanism exhibit (dis-)similar patterns of heterogeneity. Despite the observed phenotypic diversity of cells observed within our data, low-complexity models of heterogeneity were sufficient to distinguish most classes of drug mechanism. Our approach offers a computational framework for assessing the complexity of cellular heterogeneity, investigating the degree to which perturbations induce redistributions of a limited, but nontrivial, repertoire of underlying states and revealing functional significance contained within distinct patterns of heterogeneous responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19306-19311
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume105
Issue number49
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 9 2008

Keywords

  • Automated microscopy
  • Cellular heterogeneity
  • Image analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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