Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) provides details for individual cells; however, crucial spatial information is often lost. We present SpaOTsc, a method relying on structured optimal transport to recover spatial properties of scRNA-seq data by utilizing spatial measurements of a relatively small number of genes. A spatial metric for individual cells in scRNA-seq data is first established based on a map connecting it with the spatial measurements. The cell–cell communications are then obtained by “optimally transporting” signal senders to target signal receivers in space. Using partial information decomposition, we next compute the intercellular gene–gene information flow to estimate the spatial regulations between genes across cells. Four datasets are employed for cross-validation of spatial gene expression prediction and comparison to known cell–cell communications. SpaOTsc has broader applications, both in integrating non-spatial single-cell measurements with spatial data, and directly in spatial single-cell transcriptomics data to reconstruct spatial cellular dynamics in tissues.
Dissociation of tissues allows high-throughput expression profiling of single cells, but spatial information is lost. Here the authors apply an unbalanced and structured optimal transport method to infer spatial and signalling relationships between cells from scRNA-seq data by integrating it with spatial imaging data.