cytoNet: Spatiotemporal network analysis of cell communities

Arun S. Mahadevan, Byron L. Long, Chenyue W. Hu, David T. Ryan, Nicolas E. Grandel, George L. Britton, Marisol Bustos, Maria A. Gonzalez Porras, Katerina Stojkova, Andrew Ligeralde, Hyeonwi Son, John Shannonhouse, Jacob T. Robinson, Aryeh Warmflash, Eric M. Brey, Amina A. Qutub, Yu Shin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We introduce cytoNet, a cloud-based tool to characterize cell populations from microscopy images. cytoNet quantifies spatial topology and functional relationships in cell communities using principles of network science. Capturing multicellular dynamics through graph features, cytoNet also evaluates the effect of cell-cell interactions on individual cell phenotypes. We demonstrate cytoNet’s capabilities in four case studies: 1) characterizing the temporal dynamics of neural progenitor cell communities during neural differentiation, 2) identifying communities of pain-sensing neurons in vivo, 3) capturing the effect of cell community on endothelial cell morphology, and 4) investigating the effect of laminin α4 on perivascular niches in adipose tissue. The analytical framework introduced here can be used to study the dynamics of complex cell communities in a quantitative manner, leading to a deeper understanding of environmental effects on cellular behavior. The versatile, cloud-based format of cytoNet makes the image analysis framework accessible to researchers across domains. cytoNet integrates vision science with the mathematical technique of graph theory. This allows the method to simultaneously identify environmental effects on single cells and on network topology. cytoNet has versatile use across neuroscience, stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. cytoNet applications described in this study include: (1) characterizing how sensing pain alters neural circuit activity, (2) quantifying how vascular cells respond to neurotrophic stimuli overexpressed in the brain after injury or exercise, (3) delineating features of fat tissue that may confer resistance to obesity and (4) uncovering structure-function relationships of human stem cells as they transform into neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1009846
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Ecology
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Modeling and Simulation


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