Visualization and analysis of gene expression in tissue sections by spatial transcriptomics

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Science  01 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6294, pp. 78-82
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf2403

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Spatial structure of RNA expression

RNA-seq and similar methods can record gene expression within and among cells. Current methods typically lose positional information and many require arduous single-cell isolation and sequencing. Ståhl et al. have developed a way of measuring the spatial distribution of transcripts by annealing fixed brain or cancer tissue samples directly to bar-coded reverse transcriptase primers, performing reverse transcription followed by sequencing and computational reconstruction, and they can do so for multiple genes.

Science, this issue p. 78


Analysis of the pattern of proteins or messengerRNAs (mRNAs) in histological tissue sections is a cornerstone in biomedical research and diagnostics. This typically involves the visualization of a few proteins or expressed genes at a time. We have devised a strategy, which we call “spatial transcriptomics,” that allows visualization and quantitative analysis of the transcriptome with spatial resolution in individual tissue sections. By positioning histological sections on arrayed reverse transcription primers with unique positional barcodes, we demonstrate high-quality RNA-sequencing data with maintained two-dimensional positional information from the mouse brain and human breast cancer. Spatial transcriptomics provides quantitative gene expression data and visualization of the distribution of mRNAs within tissue sections and enables novel types of bioinformatics analyses, valuable in research and diagnostics.

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