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Bayesian hidden mark interaction model for detecting spatially variable genes in imaging-based spatially resolved transcriptomics data.

Recent technology breakthroughs in spatially resolved transcriptomics (SRT) have enabled the comprehensive molecular characterization of cells whilst preserving their spatial and gene expression contexts. One of the fundamental questions in analyzing SRT data is the identification of spatially variable genes whose expressions display spatially correlated patterns. Existing approaches are built upon either the Gaussian process-based model, which relies on ad hoc kernels, or the energy-based Ising model, which requires gene expression to be measured on a lattice grid. To overcome these potential limitations, we developed a generalized energy-based framework to model gene expression measured from imaging-based SRT platforms, accommodating the irregular spatial distribution of measured cells. Our Bayesian model applies a zero-inflated negative binomial mixture model to dichotomize the raw count data, reducing noise. Additionally, we incorporate a geostatistical mark interaction model with a generalized energy function, where the interaction parameter is used to identify the spatial pattern. Auxiliary variable MCMC algorithms were employed to sample from the posterior distribution with an intractable normalizing constant. We demonstrated the strength of our method on both simulated and real data. Our simulation study showed that our method captured various spatial patterns with high accuracy; moreover, analysis of a seqFISH dataset and a STARmap dataset established that our proposed method is able to identify genes with novel and strong spatial patterns.

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