Profiling molecular features associated with the morphological landscape of tissue is crucial for investigating the structural and spatial patterns that underlie the biological function of tissues. In this study, we present a new method, spatial gene expression patterns by deep learning of tissue images (SPADE), to identify important genes associated with morphological contexts by combining spatial transcriptomic data with coregistered images. SPADE incorporates deep learning-derived image patterns with spatially resolved gene expression data to extract morphological context markers. Morphological features that correspond to spatial maps of the transcriptome were extracted by image patches surrounding each spot and were subsequently represented by image latent features. The molecular profiles correlated with the image latent features were identified. The extracted genes could be further analyzed to discover functional terms and exploited to extract clusters maintaining morphological contexts. We apply our approach to spatial transcriptomic data from different tissues, platforms and types of images to demonstrate an unbiased method that is capable of obtaining image-integrated gene expression trends.
Bae, S., Choi, H.*, & Lee, D. S.(2021)