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Comprehensive understanding of cellular signal transduction requires accurate measurement of the information flow in molecular pathways. In the past, information flow has been inferred primarily from genetic or protein-protein interactions. Although useful for overall signaling, these approaches are limited in that they typically average over populations of cells. Single-cell data of signaling states are emerging, but these data are usually snapshots of a particular time point or limited to averaging over a whole cell. However, many signaling pathways are activated only transiently in specific subcellular regions. Protein activity biosensors allow measurement of the spatiotemporal activation of signaling molecules in living cells. These data contain highly complex, dynamic information that can be parsed out in time and space and compared with other signaling events as well as changes in cell structure and morphology. We describe in this chapter the use of computational tools to correct, extract, and process information from time-lapse images of biosensors. These computational tools allow one to explore the biosensor signals in a multiplexed approach in order to reconstruct the sequence of signaling events and consequently the topology of the underlying pathway. The extraction of this information, dynamics and topology, provides insight into how the inputs of a signaling network are translated into its biochemical or mechanical outputs.

Original publication




Journal article


Methods in enzymology

Publication Date





253 - 276


Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Affinity Labels, Biosensing Techniques, Signal Transduction, Cell Shape