FijiWingsPolarity: An open source toolkit for semi-automated detection of cell polarity

<p>Epithelial cells are defined by apical-basal and planar cell polarity (PCP) signaling, the latter of which establishes an orthogonal plane of polarity in the epithelial sheet. PCP signaling is required for normal cell migration, differentiation, stem cell generation and tissue repair, and defects in PCP have been associated with developmental abnormalities, neuropathologies and cancers. While the molecular mechanism of PCP is incompletely understood, the deepest insights have come from <i>Drosophila</i>, where PCP is manifest in hairs and bristles across the adult cuticle and organization of the ommatidia in the eye. Fly wing cells are marked by actin-rich trichome structures produced at the distal edge of each cell in the developing wing epithelium and in a mature wing the trichomes orient collectively in the distal direction. Genetic screens have identified key PCP signaling pathway components that disrupt trichome orientation, which has been measured manually in a tedious and error prone process. Here we describe a set of image processing and pattern-recognition macros that can quantify trichome arrangements in micrographs and mark these directly by color, arrow or colored arrow to indicate trichome location, length and orientation. Nearest neighbor calculations are made to exploit local differences in orientation to better and more reliably detect and highlight local defects in trichome polarity. We demonstrate the use of these tools on trichomes in adult wing preps and on actin-rich developing trichomes in pupal wing epithelia stained with phalloidin. FijiWingsPolarity is freely available and will be of interest to a broad community of fly geneticists studying the effect of gene function on PCP.</p>