aNMJ-morph: a simple macro for rapid analysis of neuromuscular junction morphology


Pre-Clinical Research

Poster Number: Virtual


Gavin Minty, MBChB, Edinburgh University, Anatomy Lab

Large-scale data analysis of synaptic morphology is becoming increasingly important to the field of neurobiological research (e.g. ‘connectomics’). In particular, a detailed knowledge of neuromuscular junction (NMJ) morphology has proven to be important for understanding the form and function of synapses in both health and disease. The recent introduction of a standardized approach to the morphometric analysis of the NMJ—‘NMJ-morph’—has provided the first common software platform with which to analyse and integrate NMJ data from different research laboratories. Here, we describe the design and development of a novel macro—‘automated NMJ-morph’ or ‘aNMJ-morph’—to update and streamline the original NMJ-morph methodology. ImageJ macro language was used to encode the complete NMJ-morph workflow into seven navigation windows that generate robust data for 19 individual pre-/post-synaptic variables. The aNMJ-morph scripting was first validated against reference data generated by the parent workflow to confirm data reproducibility. aNMJ-morph was then compared with the parent workflow in large-scale data analysis of original NMJ images (240 NMJs) by multiple independent investigators. aNMJ-morph conferred a fourfold increase in data acquisition rate compared with the parent workflow, with average analysis times reduced to approximately 1 min per NMJ. Strong concordance was demonstrated between the two approaches for all 19 morphological variables, confirming the robust nature of aNMJ-morph. aNMJ-morph is a freely available and easy-to-use macro for the rapid and robust analysis of NMJ morphology and offers significant improvements in data acquisition and learning curve compared to the original NMJ-morph workflow.