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Bioconjug Chem. 2000 Nov-Dec;11(6):941-6.

Improvement of MRI probes to allow efficient detection of gene expression.

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Center for Molecular Imaging Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA.


Recently, it has been demonstrated that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) utilizing monocrystalline iron oxide nanoparticles (MIONs) targeted to an engineered transferrin receptor enables imaging of gene expression. However, the relatively high doses of iron oxides used indicated the need for improved MR imaging probes to monitor changes in gene expression in vivo. Using alternative conjugation chemistries to link targeting ligands and iron oxide nanoparticles, we present the development and characterization as well as improved receptor binding and MRI detection of a novel imaging probe. Iron oxide nanoparticles with a cross-linked dextran coat were conjugated to transferrin (Tf) through the linker molecule N-succinimidyl 3-(2-pyridyldithio)propionate (SPDP) to yield Tf-S-S-CLIO. The characteristics of this conjugate were evaluated in comparison to Tf-MION and Tf-CLIO generated by oxidative activation of the dextran-coat with subsequent reduction of Schiff's base. SPDP conjugation allowed approximately a 4-fold increase in the number of Tf molecules attached per iron oxide nanoparticle and resulted in a more than 10-fold improvement of binding and uptake by cells. This translated into an imaging probe that was 16 times better for imaging gene expression in a cellular MRI assay. This novel probe for MRI may substantially increase the sensitivity for the detection of endogenous or genetically induced transferrin receptor expression in small numbers of cells and may significantly reduce the imaging dose from over 100 mg/kg to doses of iron oxides that are currently used in clinical imaging.

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