Use of folate-conjugated imaging agents to target alternatively activated macrophages in a murine model of asthma

Jiayin Shen, Venkatesh Chelvam, Gregory Cresswell, Philip S. Low

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Pro-inflammatory macrophages play a prominent role in such autoimmune diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, sarcoidosis, and atherosclerosis. Because pro-inflammatory macrophages have also been shown to overexpress a receptor for the vitamin folic acid (i.e., folate receptor beta; FR-β), folate-linked drugs have been explored for use in imaging and treatment of these same diseases. To determine whether allergic inflammatory disorders might be similarly targeted with folate-linked drugs, we have examined the characteristics of macrophages that are prominent in the pathogenesis of asthma. We report here that macrophages from the lungs of mice with experimental allergic asthma express FR-β. We further document that these FR-β+ macrophages coexpress markers of alternatively activated (M2-type) macrophages, including the mannose receptor and arginase-1. Finally, we demonstrate that folate-conjugated fluorescent dyes and radioimaging agents can be specifically targeted to these asthmatic lung macrophages, with little uptake by macrophages present in healthy lung tissue. These data suggest strategies for the development of novel diagnostic agents for the imaging of asthma and other diseases involving alternatively activated macrophages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1918-1927
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular pharmaceutics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 6 2013


  • alternatively activated macrophages
  • EC20
  • folate receptor-β
  • folate targeting
  • radioimaging of asthma
  • technetium 99m imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery


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