Nanoscale distribution of molecules within small subcellular compartments of neurons critically influences their functional roles. Although, numerous ways of analyzing the spatial arrangement of proteins have been described, a thorough comparison of their effectiveness is missing. Here we present an open source software, GoldExt, with a plethora of measures for quantification of the nanoscale distribution of proteins in subcellular compartments (e.g. synapses) of nerve cells. First, we compared the ability of five different measures to distinguish artificial uniform and clustered patterns from random point patterns. Then, the performance of a set of clustering algorithms was evaluated on simulated datasets with predefined number of clusters. Finally, we applied the best performing methods to experimental data, and analyzed the nanoscale distribution of different pre-and postsynaptic proteins, revealing random, uniform and clustered sub-synaptic distribution patterns. Our results reveal that application of a single measure is sufficient to distinguish between different distributions.
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