Inflammation imaging of atherosclerosis in Apo-E-deficient mice using a 99mTc-labeled dual-domain cytokine ligand

Zhonglin Liu, Lilach O. Lerman, Hui Tang, Christy Barber, Li Wan, Mizhou M. Hui, Lars R. Furenlid, James M. Woolfenden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) play a critical role in initiating and accelerating atherosclerosis. This study evaluated the imaging properties of 99mTc-TNFR2-Fc-IL-1RA (99mTc-TFI), a dual-domain cytokine radioligand that targets TNF-α and IL-1β pathways, in assessing atherosclerosis development in apolipoprotein-E-deficient (ApoE-/-) mice. Methods: The feasibility and specificity of detecting atherosclerosis with 99mTc-TFI SPECT imaging were investigated in ApoE-/- and ApoE+/+ mice. Fifty-four ApoE-/- mice were fed either an atherogenic diet (AGD) or a normal diet (ND) beginning at 5weeks of age. Eighteen Apo-E wild-type (ApoE+/+) mice were fed an ND. Two groups of ApoE-/- mice (n=12 each group) on AGD and ND were imaged three times with 99mTc-TFI and a high-resolution SPECT system at 20-25, 30-40, and 48-52 weeks to study the evolution of atherosclerotic plaque. Results: Focal radioactive accumulations in the aortic arch region were observed in the ApoE-/- mice (n=12) on AGD but not in the ApoE+/+ mice on ND (n=10). Apo-E-/- mice on ND (n=11) exhibited lower radioactive uptake than ApoE-/- mice on AGD (P<0.05). Co-injection of an excess of cold ligand with 99mTc-TFI resulted in significant reduction of 99mTc-TFI uptake in the ApoE-/- mice on AGD. Longitudinal studies showed that 99mTc-TFI uptake in the aortas of ApoE-/- mice progressively increased from 20 to 48weeks. Real-time PCR assays demonstrated that atherosclerotic aortas expressed significantly higher IL-1β and TNF-α than the aortas from wild-type controls. Conclusions: Atherosclerotic plaques were detected by 99mTc-TFI imaging in ApoE-/- mice. 99mTc-TFI is promising for specific detection of inflammatory response in atherosclerotic plaques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-792
Number of pages8
JournalNuclear Medicine and Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Apolipoprotein-E-deficient mice
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Inflammation
  • Interleukin-1
  • Tumor necrosis factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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