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DOI: 10.1038/s41598-024-61758-0; PMCID: PMC11094014


Spatial transcriptomics (ST) assays represent a revolution in how the architecture of tissues is studied by allowing for the exploration of cells in their spatial context. A common element in the analysis is delineating tissue domains or "niches" followed by detecting differentially expressed genes to infer the biological identity of the tissue domains or cell types. However, many studies approach differential expression analysis by using statistical approaches often applied in the analysis of non-spatial scRNA data (e.g., two-sample t-tests, Wilcoxon's rank sum test), hence neglecting the spatial dependency observed in ST data. In this study, we show that applying linear mixed models with spatial correlation structures using spatial random effects effectively accounts for the spatial autocorrelation and reduces inflation of type-I error rate observed in non-spatial based differential expression testing. We also show that spatial linear models with an exponential correlation structure provide a better fit to the ST data as compared to non-spatial models, particularly for spatially resolved technologies that quantify expression at finer scales (i.e., single-cell resolution).

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MeSH Keywords

Gene Expression Profiling; Transcriptome; Single-Cell Analysis; Linear Models; Spatial Analysis; Animals; Humans


Gene Expression Profiling; Transcriptome; Single-Cell Analysis; Linear Models; Spatial Analysis


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