Figure 1.Deep learning enhances performance of confocal MERFISH imaging.(a) A single-bit high-pass-filtered MERFISH confocal image of 242 genes in a brain tissue section taken with an exposure time of 0.1 sec (left) and a magnified view of a single cell marked by the white box in the left image (right). (b) The correlation between the copy number of individual genes detected per field-of-view (FOV) using 0.1-sec exposure time and those obtained using 1-sec exposure time. The median ratio of the copy number and the Pearson correlation coefficient r are shown. The copy number per gene detected using 0.1-sec exposure time is 24% of that detected using 1-sec exposure time. (c) The same image as in (a) but after enhancement of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) by a deep-learning (DL) algorithm. (d) The same as (b) but after deep learning was used to enhance the SNR of the 0.1-sec images. The copy number per gene detected with 0.1-sec exposure time after deep-learning-based enhancement is 89% of that detected using 1-sec exposure time.Figure 2.3D-MERFISH imaging of thick brain tissue sections.(a) 3D images of DAPI and total polyA mRNA from a single FOV in a 100-µm-thick mouse brain tissue slice (top), alongside a single z-plane at tissue depth of 50 µm marked by the yellow box in the top image (bottom). (b) Maximum-projection images of ten consecutive 1-µm z-planes of individual MERFISH bits of the region marked in yellow box in the bottom panel of (a). (c) RNA molecules identified in the same region as in (b) with RNA molecules color coded by their genetic identities. (d) The RNA copy number for individual genes per unit area (1002 µm2) per z-plane detected in the 100-µm MERFISH measurements of mouse cortex versus the FPKM from bulk RNA-seq. The Pearson correlation coefficient r is shown. (e) The Pearson correlation between RNA copy number for individual genes per z-plane at different tissue depths detected by MERFISH and the FPKM values of individual genes from bulk RNA-seq. (f) Number of detected RNA molecules per FOV at different tissue depths. (g) The RNA copy number for individual genes per unit area (1002 µm2) per z-plane detected in the 100-µm MERFISH measurements of mouse brain sections versus that detected by 10-µm-thick tissue MERFISH measurements by an epifluorescence setup (Zhang et al., 2021). The Pearson correlation coefficient r is shown.Figure 3.Spatial organization of cell types in the mouse cortex and hypothalamus by 3D thick-tissue MERFISH.(a) UMAP visualization of subclasses of cells identified in a 100-μm-thick section of the mouse cortex. Cells are color coded by subclass identities. IT: intratelencephalic projection neurons. ET: extratelencephalic projection neurons. CT: cortical-thalamic projection neurons. NP: near projection neurons. OPC: oligodendrocyte progenitor cells. Oligo: oligodendrocytes. Micro: microglia. Astro: astrocytes. VLMC: vascular leptomeningeal cells. Endo: endothelial cells. Peri: pericytes. SMC: smooth muscle cells. (b) 3D spatial maps of the identified subclasses of excitatory neurons (left), inhibitory neurons (middle) and non-neuronal cells (right) within the 100-μm mouse cortex section. (c) UMAP visualization of major cell types identified in a 200-μm-thick section of the mouse anterior hypothalamus. Cells are color coded by cell type identities. (d) 3D spatial maps of the excitatory neuronal (left), inhibitory neuronal (middle) and non-neuronal (right) cell clusters identified in the 200-μm-thick mouse hypothalamus section. Cells are color coded by cell cluster identities in the top panels and two example excitatory neuronal (left), inhibitory neuronal (middle), and non-neuronal (right) cell clusters are shown in the bottom panels. (e) Distributions of the nearest-neighbor distances from cells in individual inhibitory neuronal subclasses to cells in the same subclass (“to self”) or other subclasses (“to other”) in the mouse isocortex. We performed this analysis using a recently reported whole-mouse brain MERFISH dataset (Zhang et al., 2023). (f) Distributions of the nearest-neighbor distances from cells in individual inhibitory neuronal subclasses to cells in the same subclass (“to self”) or other subclasses (“to other”) in the mouse anterior hypothalamus. *FDR < 0.01 in (e) and (f) was determined with the Wilcoxon rank-sum one-sided test and adjusted to FDR by the Benjamini & Hochberg (BH) procedure. Only inhibitory neuronal clusters with at least 20 “self-self” interacting pairs were examined and plotted in (e) and (f).Figure 1 – figure supplement 1.Comparison of epifluorescence and confocal MERFISH images in thick tissue samples.Images of nuclei (DAPI), total polyA mRNA, and two MERFISH bits were obtained using epifluorescence (Epi) and spinning-disk confocal microscopy respectively. Both epifluorescence and confocal images were taken with 1-sec exposure time. The MERFISH bit-1 and bit-2 images were high-pass filtered to remove cellular background.Figure 1 – figure supplement 2.Characterization of MERFISH images of RNA molecules at different tissue depths in 100-µm and 200-µm thick brain tissue sections.(a) Number of RNA molecules detected per FOV at a single z-plane at the tissue depths of 10 µm and 90 µm in the first bit of the 242-gene MERFISH measurements in a 100-µm thick section of the mouse cortex. (b) Logarithmic distribution of integrated photon counts of individual RNA molecules at the tissue depths of 10 µm and 90 µm identified in (a). (c) Number of RNA molecules detected per FOV at a single z-plane at tissue depths of 10 µm and 190 µm of in the first bit of the 156-gene MERFISH measurements in a 200-µm-thick section of the mouse hypothalamus. (d) Logarithmic distribution of integrated photon counts of individual RNA molecules at the tissue depths of 10 µm and 190 µm identified in (c).Figure 2 – figure supplement 1.Optimization of MERFISH encoding and readout probe labeling conditions.(a) Example high-pass-filtered bit-1 images of a 242-gene MERFISH measurement in a 100-µm-thick section of mouse cortex stained with different concentrations of encoding probes. The concentration values refer to the concentration of each individual encoding probe. (b) Distribution of integrated photon counts of individual RNA molecules identified at different encoding probe concentrations. The signals from individual RNA molecules increased with the encoding probe concentration and reached saturation at ∼1.0 nM per probe. We thus used 1 nM encoding probe concentrations for staining thick tissue samples. (c) A 100-µm-thick mouse brain slice was stained with the 242-gene MERFISH encoding probes, followed by sequential hybridization with readout probes corresponding to the first, second, third and fourth bit of the barcodes, each bit using a different readout probe concentration. High-pass-filtered bit-1, bit-2, bit-3, and bit-4 MERFISH images (each with a different concentration of readout probes) are shown. (d) Distribution of integrated photon counts of individual RNA molecules identified at different readout probe concentrations. The signal increased with readout probe concentration, but the background also increased when the probe concentration reached beyond 5 nM. We thus used 5 nM readout probe concentration for thick-tissue imaging. In addition to the probe concentrations, we also optimized readout probe incubation time. (e) The number of RNA molecules per FOV per z-plane and the normalized intensity of individual molecules at different tissue depths. The encoding probe concentration was 1 nM per encoding probe, the readout probe concentration was 5 nM, and the readout probe incubation time was 25 minutes for these measurements.Figure 2 – figure supplement 2.Displacement of RNA molecules between different imaging rounds reduces detection accuracy and efficiency.(a) Total copy number of decoded RNAs detected per FOV per z-plane at different tissue depths in a 242-gene MERFISH measurement of the 100 µm-thick section. (b) Pearson correlation coefficients of RNA copy number of individual genes per FOV per z-plane detected at different tissue depths by MERFISH with the FPKM values measured by bulk RNA-seq. (c) Correlation of RNA copy number of individual genes per FOV per z-plane detected in the entire 100 µm-thick section by MERFISH with the FPKM values obtained by bulk RNA-seq. The Pearson correlation coefficient r is shown. (d) Example images of gel-embedded beads acquired in two rounds of imaging. Buffer exchanges were performed between imaging rounds, mimicking the MERFISH protocol. Because the gel expanded to a different extent in different rounds, the positions of beads changed from round to round in x, y, and z directions. Circles mark beads identified in both imaging rounds. Because the gel size changed, the x and y positions of the beads changed, and the brightness of these beads also changed due to the shift in their z positions. Arrows highlight beads detected in one of the imaging rounds, but not the other, due to the gel-size change, which move these beads out of focus.Figure 2 – figure supplement 3.Quantification of gel expansion effect by MERFISH buffers.(a) Quantification of gel expansion factor in various buffers used in the MERFISH protocol. The initial gel size was the same as the coverslip and the expansion factor after buffer exchange was determined as the ratio between the gel size after buffer exchange and the coverslip size. (b) In each round of MERFISH imaging, the sample is incubated with the readout probes in a wash buffer (containing either 10% ethylene carbonate (EC) or 10% Formamide) for a duration of 15 minutes. Subsequently, the sample was rinsed with the wash buffer (without readout probes) to remove any excessive readout probes, followed by a treatment with imaging buffer containing glucose-oxidase-based or Protocatechuate 3,4-Dioxygenase rPCO-based oxygen scavenger system to reduce photobleaching. After the imaging process, the sample is treated with Tris(2-carboxyethyl) phosphine (TCEP) buffer to cleave off the fluorescent dye linked to the readout probe through a disulfide bond, and finally washed with a solution of 2× Saline-Sodium Citrate (SSC). All buffers, including wash, imaging, and cleavage buffers, contained 2× SSC. Gel-expansion factor in these buffers used in the MERFISH protocol was quantified and shown here. Reagents marked by * were selected for final use in the 3D thick-tissue MERFISH experiment. The dashed line highlights the expansion factor in the 2× SSC buffer alone. (c) XZ projection images of fiducial beads embedded in a gel undergoing buffer exchange for the indicated time period. Wash buffer containing 15% EC in 2× SSC causes noticeable gel distortion, which was recovered after 15 min in 2× SSC buffer without EC.Figure 2 – figure supplement 4.3D MERFISH imaging of 242 genes in a 100 µm-thick section of the mouse cortex.(a) Example images of decoded RNA molecules at different tissue depths. Each image shows decoded barcodes in a 10-µm-thick z-range, as indicated. Bottom panels show the zoom-in of the region marked by white boxes in the top panels. RNA molecules are color coded by their genetic identities. (b) DAPI (left) and polyA mRNA (middle) images of an example field of view (FOV), which were used for cell segmentation. Cell boundary segmentation determined using a deep-learning-based segmentation algorithm (Cellpose 2.0) is shown in the right panel. (c) The RNA copy number of individual genes per cell detected in the 100-µm-thick tissue section versus that in individual 10-µm-thick z-ranges of the same sample. The 100-µm-thick section was evenly divided into 10 z-ranges to determine the latter.Figure 3 – figure supplement 1.Neuronal clusters identified in the 100-µm-thick section of the mouse cortex.UMAP visualization of excitatory (left) and inhibitory (right) neuronal clusters are shown with each cell colored by their cluster identities.Figure 3 – figure supplement 2.3D MERFISH imaging of 156 genes in a 200-µm-thick section of the mouse hypothalamus.(a) The Pearson correlation coefficient of the RNA copy number for individual genes at different tissue depths versus those in the initial 1-µm range of the 200-µm-thick section of the mouse hypothalamus. (b) The median RNA copy numbers per cell at different tissue depths of the 200-µm-thick section. The first and last 10 µm were excluded from the analysis because some of the cells captured in these z-ranged were incompletely captured.Figure 3 – figure supplement 3.Transcriptionally distinct cell clusters identified in a 200-µm-thick section of the mouse hypothalamus.(a) UMAP visualization of excitatory and inhibitory neuronal clusters identified in the 200-µm-thick section, with each cell colored by their cluster identities. (b) 2D spatial maps of individual excitatory and inhibitory neuronal clusters. The hypothalamus nuclei in which each cluster is primarily localized, and one or two notable genes of each cluster are listed for individual clusters. For three example clusters, E20, I1, and I5, the hypothalamus nucleus containing the indicated cluster is marked by dashed lines.