A deep learning model to predict RNA-Seq expression of tumours from whole slide images

Nat Commun. 2020 Aug 3;11(1):3877. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-17678-4.


Deep learning methods for digital pathology analysis are an effective way to address multiple clinical questions, from diagnosis to prediction of treatment outcomes. These methods have also been used to predict gene mutations from pathology images, but no comprehensive evaluation of their potential for extracting molecular features from histology slides has yet been performed. We show that HE2RNA, a model based on the integration of multiple data modes, can be trained to systematically predict RNA-Seq profiles from whole-slide images alone, without expert annotation. Through its interpretable design, HE2RNA provides virtual spatialization of gene expression, as validated by CD3- and CD20-staining on an independent dataset. The transcriptomic representation learned by HE2RNA can also be transferred on other datasets, even of small size, to increase prediction performance for specific molecular phenotypes. We illustrate the use of this approach in clinical diagnosis purposes such as the identification of tumors with microsatellite instability.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Deep Learning*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Microsatellite Instability
  • Models, Genetic
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • RNA-Seq / methods*