Co-clustering of Spatially Resolved Transcriptomic Data
Andrea Sottosanti,Davide Risso
University of Padova
Spatial transcriptomics is a groundbreaking technology that allows the measurement of the activity of thousands of genes in a tissue sample and maps where the activity occurs. This technology has enabled the study of the spatial variation of the genes across the tissue. Comprehending gene functions and interactions in different areas of the tissue is of great scientific interest, as it might lead to a deeper understanding of several key biological mechanisms, such as cell-cell communication or tumor-microenvironment interaction. To do so, one can group cells of the same type and genes that exhibit similar expression patterns. However, adequate statistical tools that exploit the previously unavailable spatial information to more coherently group cells and genes are still lacking. In this work, we introduce SpaRTaCo, a new statistical model that clusters the spatial expression profiles of the genes according to a partition of the tissue. This is accomplished by performing a co-clustering, i.e., inferring the latent block structure of the data and inducing two types of clustering: of the genes, using their expression across the tissue, and of the image areas, using the gene expression in the spots where the RNA is collected. Our proposed methodology is validated with a series of simulation experiments and its usefulness in responding to specific biological questions is illustrated with an application to a human brain tissue sample processed with the 10X-Visium protocol.