We are presenting a program for interactive segmentation of tomographic maps, based on objective criteria so as to yield reproducible results. The strategy starts with the automatic segmentation of the entire volume with the watershed algorithm in 3D. The watershed regions are clustered successively by supervised classification, allowing the segmentation of known organelles, such as membranes, vesicles and microtubules. These organelles are processed with topological models and input parameters manually derived from the tomograms. After known organelles are extracted from the volume, all other watershed regions can be organized into homogeneous assemblies on the basis of their densities. To complete the process, all voxels in the volume are assigned either to the background or individual structures, which can then be extracted for visualization with any rendering technique.
The user interface of the program is written in Java, and computational routines are written in C. For some operations, involving the visualization of the tomogram, we refer to existing software, either open or commercial. While the program runs, a history file is created, that allows all parameters and other data to be saved for the purposes of comparison or exchange. Initially, the program was developed for the segmentation of synapses, and organelles belonging to these structures have thus far been the principal targets modeled with JUST. Since each organelle is clustered independently from the rest of the volume, however, the program can accommodate new models of different organelles as well as tomograms of other types of preparations of tissue, such as citoskeletal components in vitreous ice.