Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Arthritis Research & Therapy and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Evaluation of the novel folate receptor ligand [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate for macrophage targeting in a rat model of arthritis

Yoony YJ Gent1, Karin Weijers1, Carla FM Molthoff2, Albert D Windhorst2, Marc C Huisman2, Desirée EC Smith3, Sumith A Kularatne4, Gerrit Jansen1, Philip S Low4, Adriaan A Lammertsma2 and Conny J van der Laken1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Rheumatology, VU University Medical Center, De Boelelaan 1117, Amsterdam, 1081 HV, The Netherlands

2 Department of Radiology & Nuclear Medicine, VU University Medical Center, De Boelelaan 1117, Amsterdam, 1081 HV, The Netherlands

3 Department of Clinical Chemistry, VU University Medical Center, De Boelelaan 1117, Amsterdam, 1081 HV, The Netherlands

4 Department of Chemistry, Purdue University, 560 Oval Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:R37  doi:10.1186/ar4191

Published: 1 March 2013

Abstract

Introduction

Detection of (subclinical) synovitis is relevant for both early diagnosis and monitoring of therapy of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Previously, the potential of imaging (sub)clinical arthritis was demonstrated by targeting the translocator protein in activated macrophages using (R)-[11C]PK11195 and positron emission tomography (PET). Images, however, also showed significant peri-articular background activity. The folate receptor (FR)-β is a potential alternative target for imaging activated macrophages. Therefore, the PET tracer [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate was synthesized and evaluated in both in vitro and ex vivo studies using a methylated BSA induced arthritis model.

Methods

[18F]fluoro-PEG-folate was synthesized in a two-step procedure. Relative binding affinities of non-radioactive fluoro-PEG-folate, folic acid and naturally circulating 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-Me-THF) to FR were determined using KB cells with high expression of FR. Both in vivo [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate PET and ex vivo tissue distribution studies were performed in arthritic and normal rats and results were compared with those of the established macrophage tracer (R)-[11C]PK11195.

Results

[18F]fluoro-PEG-folate was synthesized with a purity >97%, a yield of 300 to 1,700 MBq and a specific activity between 40 and 70 GBq/µmol. Relative in vitro binding affinity for FR of F-PEG-folate was 1.8-fold lower than that of folic acid, but 3-fold higher than that of 5-Me-THF. In the rat model, [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate uptake in arthritic knees was increased compared with both contralateral knees and knees of normal rats. Uptake in arthritic knees could be blocked by an excess of glucosamine-folate, consistent with [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate being specifically bound to FR. Arthritic knee-to-bone and arthritic knee-to-blood ratios of [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate were increased compared with those of (R)-[11C]PK11195. Reduction of 5-Me-THF levels in rat plasma to those mimicking human levels increased absolute [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate uptake in arthritic joints, but without improving target-to-background ratios.

Conclusions

The novel PET tracer [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate, designed to target FR on activated macrophages provided improved contrast in a rat model of arthritis compared with the accepted macrophage tracer (R)-[11C]PK11195. These results warrant further exploration of [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate as a putative PET tracer for imaging (sub)clinical arthritis in RA patients.