Single cell morphology distinguishes genotype and drug effect in Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia

Gautam Wali*, Shlomo Berkovsky, Daniel R. Whiten, Alan Mackay-Sim, Carolyn M. Sue

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


A central need for neurodegenerative diseases is to find curative drugs for the many clinical subtypes, the causative gene for most cases being unknown. This requires the classification of disease cases at the genetic and cellular level, an understanding of disease aetiology in the subtypes and the development of phenotypic assays for high throughput screening of large compound libraries. Herein we describe a method that facilitates these requirements based on cell morphology that is being increasingly used as a readout defining cell state. In patient-derived fibroblasts we quantified 124 morphological features in 100,000 cells from 15 people with two genotypes (SPAST and SPG7) of Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP) and matched controls. Using machine learning analysis, we distinguished between each genotype and separated them from controls. Cell morphologies changed with treatment with noscapine, a tubulin-binding drug, in a genotype-dependent manner, revealing a novel effect on one of the genotypes (SPG7). These findings demonstrate a method for morphological profiling in fibroblasts, an accessible non-neural cell, to classify and distinguish between clinical subtypes of neurodegenerative diseases, for drug discovery, and potentially for biomarkers of disease severity and progression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16635
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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