Automated sizing of DNA fragments in atomic force microscope images

T. S. Spisz, Y. Fang, R. H. Reeves, C. K. Seymour, I. N. Bankman, J. H. Hoh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current techniques used to measure lengths of DNA fragments in atomic force microscope (AFM) images require a user to operate interactive software and execute tedious error-prone cursor selections. An algorithm is proposed which provides an automated method for determining DNA fragment lengths from AFM images without interaction from the computer operator (e.g. cursor selections or mouse clicks). The approach utilises image processing techniques tailored to characteristics of AFM images of DNA fragments. The automated measurements have a mean absolute deviation of less than 1 pixel when compared to manual image-based measurements. The DNA length determined from the histogram of calculated lengths is accurate to within 3% of the actual DNA length in solution. For fragments that are 250 base-pairs long, the precision is estimated to be within 17 nm, which is about 20% of the total length. This precision was confirmed when the algorithm easily resolved fragments in one image that differed by only 17 nm. Fragment sizes up to 2000 base-pairs have been tested and successfully sized. This algorithm is being developed as part of a new solid-state DNA sizing technique for applications such as genotyping and construction of physical genome maps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-672
Number of pages6
JournalMedical and Biological Engineering and Computing
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998


  • DNA sizing
  • Image processing
  • Length determination
  • Scanning force microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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