Böcker, W. and Iliakis, G. Computational Methods for Analysis of Foci: Validation for Radiation-Induced γ-H2AX Foci in Human Cells. Radiat. Res. 165, 113–124 (2006).
Observation and counting of γ-H2AX foci in untreated cells as well as in cells exposed to cytotoxic agents is a widely used method for documenting the presence of double-strand breaks (DSBs) in the DNA and for analysis of their repair. Similar methods are employed to analyze formation of foci by a variety of proteins implicated in the cellular responses to DNA damage. Despite the wide application of the approach, the manual counting that is frequently used is prone to inaccuracies and investigator-related biases and artifacts. To alleviate this limitation, we developed and describe here personal computer-based algorithms, operating as utilities on available software, that allow an objective and quantitative analysis of foci from confocal images. The algorithms allow focus counting as well as size definition and correct for focus coincidence due to the overlap normally occurring with an increasing number of foci per nucleus. Furthermore, the software allows measurement of the integrated optical density (IOD) of each individual focus, which enables analysis of properties of foci as a function of time. Finally, the information generated by the above analysis algorithms can be employed to evaluate colocalization between foci formed by different proteins. A validation of the software is presented for radiation-induced γ-H2AX foci in three widely used human cell lines and colocalization tested with RAD51 and γ-H2AX foci. The computational methods presented extend to images generated by digital cameras.