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Neuroimage. 2008 Jul 1;41(3):690-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.03.004. Epub 2008 Mar 18.

Positron emission tomography imaging using an inverse agonist radioligand to assess cannabinoid CB1 receptors in rodents.

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Molecular Imaging Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-2035, USA.


[11C]MePPEP is an inverse agonist and a radioligand developed to image cannabinoid CB1 receptors with positron emission tomography (PET). It provides reversible, high specific signal in monkey brain. We assessed [11C]MePPEP in rodent brain with regard to receptor selectivity, susceptibility to transport by P-glycoprotein (P-gp), sensitivity to displacement by agonists, and accumulation of radiometabolites. We used CB1 receptor knockout mice and P-gp knockout mice to assess receptor selectivity and sensitivity to efflux transport, respectively. Using serial measurements of PET brain activity and plasma concentrations of [11C]MePPEP, we estimated CB1 receptor density in rat brain as distribution volume. CB1 knockout mice showed only nonspecific brain uptake, and [11C]MePPEP was not a substrate for P-gp. Direct acting agonists anandamide (10 mg/kg), methanandamide (10 mg/kg), CP 55,940 (1 mg/kg), and indirect agonist URB597 (0.3 and 0.6 mg/kg) failed to displace [11C]MePPEP, while the inverse agonist rimonabant (3 and 10 mg/kg) displaced >65% of [11C]MePPEP. Radiometabolites represented ~13% of total radioactivity in brain between 30 and 120 min. [11C]MePPEP was selective for the CB1 receptor, was not a substrate for P-gp, and was more potently displaced by inverse agonists than agonists. The low potency of agonists suggests either a large receptor reserve or non-overlapping binding sites for agonists and inverse agonists. Radiometabolites of [11C]MePPEP in brain caused distribution volume to be overestimated by approximately 13%.

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