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J Nucl Med. 2013 Feb;54(2):244-51. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.112.109694. Epub 2013 Jan 7.

Development and evaluation of 18F-TTCO-Cys40-Exendin-4: a PET probe for imaging transplanted islets.

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  • 1Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, Duarte, California 91010, USA.


Because islet transplantation has become a promising treatment option for patients with type 1 diabetes, a noninvasive imaging method is greatly needed to monitor these islets over time. Here, we developed an (18)F-labeled exendin-4 in high specific activity for islet imaging by targeting the glucagonlike peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R).


Tetrazine ligation was used to radiolabel exendin-4 with (18)F. The receptor binding of (19/18)F-tetrazine trans-cyclooctene (TTCO)-Cys(40)-exendin-4 was evaluated in vitro with INS-1 cell and in vivo on INS-1 tumor (GLP-1R positive) and islet transplantation models.


(18)F-TTCO-Cys(40)-exendin-4 was obtained in high specific activity and could specifically bind to GLP-1R in vitro and in vivo. Unlike the radiometal-labeled exendin-4, (18)F-TTCO-Cys(40)-exendin-4 has much lower kidney uptake. (18)F-TTCO-Cys(40)-exendin-4 demonstrated its great potential for transplanted islet imaging: the liver uptake value derived from small-animal PET images correlated well with the transplanted β-cell mass determined by immunostaining. Autoradiography showed that the localizations of radioactive signal indeed corresponded to the distribution of islet grafts in the liver of islet-transplanted mice.


(18)F-TTCO-Cys(40)-exendin-4 demonstrated specific binding to GLP-1R. This PET probe provides a method to noninvasively image intraportally transplanted islets.

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