Imputation of spatially-resolved transcriptomes by graph-regularized tensor completion

PLoS Comput Biol. 2021 Apr 7;17(4):e1008218. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008218. Online ahead of print.


High-throughput spatial-transcriptomics RNA sequencing (sptRNA-seq) based on in-situ capturing technologies has recently been developed to spatially resolve transcriptome-wide mRNA expressions mapped to the captured locations in a tissue sample. Due to the low RNA capture efficiency by in-situ capturing and the complication of tissue section preparation, sptRNA-seq data often only provides an incomplete profiling of the gene expressions over the spatial regions of the tissue. In this paper, we introduce a graph-regularized tensor completion model for imputing the missing mRNA expressions in sptRNA-seq data, namely FIST, Fast Imputation of Spatially-resolved transcriptomes by graph-regularized Tensor completion. We first model sptRNA-seq data as a 3-way sparse tensor in genes (p-mode) and the (x, y) spatial coordinates (x-mode and y-mode) of the observed gene expressions, and then consider the imputation of the unobserved entries or fibers as a tensor completion problem in Canonical Polyadic Decomposition (CPD) form. To improve the imputation of highly sparse sptRNA-seq data, we also introduce a protein-protein interaction network to add prior knowledge of gene functions, and a spatial graph to capture the the spatial relations among the capture spots. The tensor completion model is then regularized by a Cartesian product graph of protein-protein interaction network and the spatial graph to capture the high-order relations in the tensor. In the experiments, FIST was tested on ten 10x Genomics Visium spatial transcriptomic datasets of different tissue sections with cross-validation among the known entries in the imputation. FIST significantly outperformed the state-of-the-art methods for single-cell RNAseq data imputation. We also demonstrate that both the spatial graph and PPI network play an important role in improving the imputation. In a case study, we further analyzed the gene clusters obtained from the imputed gene expressions to show that the imputations by FIST indeed capture the spatial characteristics in the gene expressions and reveal functions that are highly relevant to three different kinds of tissues in mouse kidney.