Integrating single-cell RNA-Seq with spatial transcriptomics in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma using multimodal intersection analysis
To understand the architecture of a tissue it is necessary to know both the cell populations and their physical relationships to one another. Single-cell RNA-Seq (scRNA-Seq) has made significant progress towards the unbiased and systematic characterization of the cell populations within a tissue, as well as their cellular states, by studying hundreds and thousands of cells in a single experiment. However, the characterization of the spatial organization of individual cells within a tissue has been more elusive. The recently introduced "spatial transcriptomics" method (ST) reveals the spatial pattern of gene expression within a tissue section at a resolution of one thousand 100 µm spots, each capturing the transcriptomes of ~10-20 cells. Here, we present an approach for the integration of scRNA-Seq and ST data generated from the same sample of pancreatic cancer tissue. Using markers for cell-types identified by scRNA-Seq, we robustly deconvolved the cell-type composition of each ST spot, to generate a spatial atlas of cell proportions across the tissue. Studying this atlas, we found that distinct spatial localizations accompany each of the three cancer cell populations that we identified. Strikingly, we find that subpopulations defined in the scRNA-Seq data also exhibit spatial segregation in the atlas, suggesting such an atlas may be used to study the functional attributes of subpopulations. Our results provide a framework for creating a tumor atlas by mapping single-cell populations to their spatial region, as well as the inference of cell architecture in any tissue.
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