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A Pairwise Distance Distribution Correction (DDC) algorithm to eliminate blinking-caused artifacts in super-resolution microscopy

By Christopher H. Bohrer, Xinxing Yang, Xiaoli Weng, Brian Tenner, Shreyasi Thakur, Ryan McQuillen, Brian Ross, Matthew Wooten, Xin Chen, Melike Lakadamyali, Jin Zhang, Elijah Roberts, Jie Xiao

Posted 12 Sep 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/768051

In single-molecule localization based super-resolution microscopy (SMLM), a fluorophore stochastically switches between fluorescent- and dark-states, leading to intermittent emission of fluorescence, a phenomenon known as blinking. Intermittent emissions create multiple localizations belonging to the same molecule, resulting in blinking-artifacts within SMLM images. These artifacts are often interpreted as true biological assemblies, confounding quantitative analyses and interpretations. Multiple methods have been developed to eliminate these artifacts, but they either require additional experiments, arbitrary thresholds, or specific photo-kinetic models. Here we present a method, termed Distance Distribution Correction (DDC), to eliminate blinking-caused repeat localizations without any additional calibrations. The approach relies on the finding that the true pairwise distance distribution of different fluorophores in an SMLM image can be naturally obtained from the imaging sequence by using distances between localizations separated by a time much longer than the average fluorescence survival time. We show that using the true pairwise distribution we can define and then maximize the likelihood of obtaining a particular set of localizations void of blinking-artifacts, generating an accurate reconstruction of the underlying cellular structure. Using both simulated and experimental data, we show that DDC surpasses all previous existing blinking-artifact correction methodologies, resulting in drastic improvements in obtaining the closest estimate of the true spatial organization and number of fluorescent emitters in a wide range of applications. The simplicity and robustness of DDC will allow it to become the field standard in SMLM imaging, enabling the most accurate reconstruction and quantification of SMLM images to date.

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