We describe the application of a novel image processing method, which allows quantitative analysis of cell and tissue movement in a series of digitized video images. The result is a vector velocity field showing average direction and velocity of movement for every pixel in the frame. We apply this method to the analysis of cell movement during different stages of the Dictyostelium developmental cycle. We analysed time-lapse video recordings of cell movement in single cells, mounds and slugs. The program can correctly assess the speed and direction of movement of either unlabelled or labelled cells in a time series of video images depending on the illumination conditions. Our analysis of cell movement during multicellular development shows that the entire morphogenesis of Dictyostelium is characterized by rotational cell movement. The analysis of cell and tissue movement by the velocity field method should be applicable to the analysis of morphogenetic processes in other systems such as gastrulation and neurulation in vertebrate embryos.

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