Discovering Neuronal Cell Types and Their Gene Expression Profiles Using a Spatial Point Process Mixture Model

by   Furong Huang, et al.

Cataloging the neuronal cell types that comprise circuitry of individual brain regions is a major goal of modern neuroscience and the BRAIN initiative. Single-cell RNA sequencing can now be used to measure the gene expression profiles of individual neurons and to categorize neurons based on their gene expression profiles. While the single-cell techniques are extremely powerful and hold great promise, they are currently still labor intensive, have a high cost per cell, and, most importantly, do not provide information on spatial distribution of cell types in specific regions of the brain. We propose a complementary approach that uses computational methods to infer the cell types and their gene expression profiles through analysis of brain-wide single-cell resolution in situ hybridization (ISH) imagery contained in the Allen Brain Atlas (ABA). We measure the spatial distribution of neurons labeled in the ISH image for each gene and model it as a spatial point process mixture, whose mixture weights are given by the cell types which express that gene. By fitting a point process mixture model jointly to the ISH images, we infer both the spatial point process distribution for each cell type and their gene expression profile. We validate our predictions of cell type-specific gene expression profiles using single cell RNA sequencing data, recently published for the mouse somatosensory cortex. Jointly with the gene expression profiles, cell features such as cell size, orientation, intensity and local density level are inferred per cell type.


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