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Detection of Microglial Activation in an Acute Model of Neuroinflammation Using PET and Radiotracers 11C-(R)-PK11195 and 18F-GE-180.

Dickens, Alex M; Vainio, Susanne; Marjamäki, Päivi; Johansson, Jarkko; Lehtiniemi, Paula; Rokka, Johanna; Rinne, Juha; Solin, Olof; Haaparanta-Solin, Merja; Jones, Paul A; Trigg, William; Anthony, Daniel C; Airas, Laura

It remains unclear how different translocator protein (TSPO) ligands reflect the spatial extent of astrocyte or microglial activation in various neuroinflammatory conditions. Here, we use a reproducible lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced model of acute central nervous system inflammation to compare the binding performance of a new TSPO ligand (18)F-GE-180 with (11)C-(R)-PK11195. Using immunohistochemistry, we also explore the ability of the TSPO ligands to detect activated microglial cells and astrocytes.

METHODS: Lewis rats (n = 30) were microinjected with LPS (1 or 10 μg) or saline (1 μL) into the left striatum. The animals were imaged in vivo at 16 h after the injection using PET radiotracers (18)F-GE-180 or (11)C-(R)-PK11195 (n = 3 in each group) and were killed afterward for autoradiography of the brain. Immunohistochemical assessment of OX-42 and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) was performed to identify activated microglial cells and reactive astrocytes.

RESULTS: In vivo PET imaging revealed an increase in the ipsilateral TSPO binding, compared with binding in the contralateral hemisphere, after the microinjection of 10 μg of LPS. No increase was observed with vehicle. By autoradiography, the TSPO radiotracer binding potential in the injected hemisphere was increased after striatal injection of 1 or 10 μg of LPS. However, the significant increase was observed only when using (18)F-GE-180. The area of CD11b-expressing microglial cells extended beyond that of enhanced GFAP staining and mapped more closely to the extent of (18)F-GE-180 binding than to (11)C-(R)-PK11195 binding. The signal from either PET ligand was significantly increased in regions of increased GFAP immunoreactivity and OX-42 colocalization, meaning that the presence of both activated microglia and astrocytes in a given area leads to increased binding of the TSPO radiotracers.

CONCLUSION: (18)F-GE-180 is able to reveal sites of activated microglia in both gray and white matter. However, the signal is increased by the presence of activated astrocytes. Therefore, (18)F-GE-180 is a promising new fluorinated longer-half-life tracer that reveals the presence of activated microglia in a manner that is superior to (11)C-(R)-PK11195 due to the higher binding potential observed for this ligand.

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