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An Unsupervised kNN Method to Systematically Detect Changes in Protein Localization in High-Throughput Microscopy Images


Despite the importance of characterizing genes that exhibit subcellular localization changes between conditions in proteome-wide imaging experiments, many recent studies still rely upon manual evaluation to assess the results of high-throughput imaging experiments. We describe and demonstrate an unsupervised k-nearest neighbours method for the detection of localization changes. Compared to previous classification-based supervised change detection methods, our method is much simpler and faster, and operates directly on the feature space to overcome limitations in needing to manually curate training sets that may not generalize well between screens. In addition, the output of our method is flexible in its utility, generating both a quantitatively ranked list of localization changes that permit user-defined cut-offs, and a vector for each gene describing feature-wise direction and magnitude of localization changes. We demonstrate that our method is effective at the detection of localization changes using the ?rpd3 perturbation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, where we capture 71.4% of previously known changes within the top 10% of ranked genes, and find at least four new localization changes within the top 1% of ranked genes. The results of our analysis indicate that simple unsupervised methods may be able to identify localization changes in images without laborious manual image labelling steps.

PLoS One