Modeling intercellular communication in tissues using spatial graphs of cells

David S. Fischer, Anna C. Schaar & Fabian J. Theis
Nature Biotechnology


Models of intercellular communication in tissues are based on molecular profiles of dissociated cells, are limited to receptor–ligand signaling and ignore spatial proximity in situ. We present node-centric expression modeling, a method based on graph neural networks that estimates the effects of niche composition on gene expression in an unbiased manner from spatial molecular profiling data. We recover signatures of molecular processes known to underlie cell communication.