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Investigating Carboxysome Morphology Dynamics with a Rotationally Invariant Variational Autoencoder...

by Miguel A Fuentes-cabrera, Jonathan Sakkos, Daniel C. Ducat, Maxim A Ziatdinov
Publication Type
Journal Name
The Journal of Physical Chemistry A
Publication Date
Page Numbers
5021 to 5030

Carboxysomes are a class of bacterial microcompartments that form proteinaceous organelles within the cytoplasm of cyanobacteria and play a central role in photosynthetic metabolism by defining a cellular microenvironment permissive to CO2 fixation. Critical aspects of the assembly of the carboxysomes remain relatively unknown, especially with regard to the dynamics of this microcompartment. Progress in understanding carboxysome dynamics is impeded in part because analysis of the subtle changes in carboxysome morphology with microscopy remains a low-throughput and subjective process. Here we use deep learning techniques, specifically a Rotationally Invariant Variational Autoencoder (rVAE), to analyze fluorescence microscopy images of cyanobacteria bearing a carboxysome reporter and quantitatively evaluate how carboxysome shell remodelling impacts subtle trends in the morphology of the microcompartment over time. Toward this goal, we use a recently developed tool to control endogenous protein levels, including carboxysomal components, in the model cyanobacterium Synechococcous elongatus PCC 7942. By utilization of this system, proteins that compose the carboxysome can be tuned in real time as a method to examine carboxysome dynamics. We find that rVAEs are able to assist in the quantitative evaluation of changes in carboxysome numbers, shape, and size over time. We propose that rVAEs may be a useful tool to accelerate the analysis of carboxysome assembly and dynamics in response to genetic or environmental perturbation and may be more generally useful to probe regulatory processes involving a broader array of bacterial microcompartments.