Automated morphometric analysis with SMorph software reveals plasticity induced by antidepressant therapy in hippocampal astrocytes

Nervous system development and plasticity involves changes in cellular morphology, making morphological analysis a valuable exercise in the study of nervous system development, function and disease. Morphological analysis is a time-consuming exercise requiring meticulous manual tracing of cellular contours and extensions. We have developed a software tool, called SMorph, to rapidly analyse the morphology of cells of the nervous system. SMorph performs completely automated Sholl analysis. It extracts 23 morphometric features based on cell images and Sholl analysis parameters, followed by Principal Component Analysis. SMorph is tested on neurons, astrocytes and microglia and reveals subtle changes in cell morphology. Using SMorph, we found that chronic 21-day treatment with antidepressant desipramine results in a significant structural remodeling in hippocampal astrocytes. Given the proposed involvement of astroglial structural changes and atrophy in major depression in humans, our results reveal a novel kind of structural plasticity induced by chronic antidepressant administration.

Project Author(s)

Parul Sethi, Garima Virmani, Kushaan Gupta, Surya Chandra Rao Thumu, Narendrakumar Ramanan, Swananda Marathe

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