Analysis of Lipid Droplet Content in Fission and Budding Yeasts using Automated Image Processing

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


Lipid metabolism and its regulation are of interest to both basic and applied life sciences and biotechnology. In this regard, various yeast species are used as models in lipid metabolic research or for industrial lipid production. Lipid droplets are highly dynamic storage bodies and their cellular content represents a convenient readout of the lipid metabolic state. Fluorescence microscopy is a method of choice for quantitative analysis of cellular lipid droplets, as it relies on widely available equipment and allows analysis of individual lipid droplets. Furthermore, microscopic image analysis can be automated, greatly increasing overall analysis throughput. Here, we describe an experimental and analytical workflow for automated detection and quantitative description of individual lipid droplets in three different model yeast species: the fission yeasts Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Schizosaccharomyces japonicus, and the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Lipid droplets are visualized with BODIPY 493/503, and cell-impermeable fluorescent dextran is added to the culture media to help identify cell boundaries. Cells are subjected to 3D epifluorescence microscopy in green and blue channels and the resulting z-stack images are processed automatically by a MATLAB pipeline. The procedure outputs rich quantitative data on cellular lipid droplet content and individual lipid droplet characteristics in a tabular format suitable for downstream analyses in major spreadsheet or statistical packages. We provide example analyses of lipid droplet content under various conditions that affect cellular lipid metabolism.