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J Nucl Med. 2011 Jul;52(7):1133-41. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.110.086942. Epub 2011 Jun 16.

Noninvasive nuclear imaging enables the in vivo quantification of striatal dopamine receptor expression and raclopride affinity in mice.

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Department of Preclinical Imaging and Radiopharmacy, Laboratory for Preclinical Imaging and Imaging Technology of the Werner Siemens-Foundation, Eberhard-Karls University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany.


The increasing use of genetically engineered mice as animal models of human disease in biomedical research, latest advances in imaging technologies, and development of novel, highly specific radiolabeled biomarkers provide great potential to study receptor expression and gene function in vivo in mice. (11)C-raclopride is a widely used PET tracer to measure striatal D(2) receptor binding and was used to test the feasibility of the multiple-ligand-concentration receptor assay for D(2) receptor quantification.


Mice underwent a total of 4 scans with decreasing specific activities from 141 to 0.4 GBq/μmol, corresponding to (11)C-raclopride injected doses of 2.4 to 1,274 nmol/kg, using either a standard bolus injection protocol (n = 12) or a bolus-plus-constant infusion protocol to attain true equilibrium conditions (n = 7). Receptor occupancy was plotted as a function of raclopride dose, and D(2) receptor density and raclopride affinity were calculated using linear and nonlinear regression analysis, respectively. In addition, we used ex vivo autoradiography, a more spatially accurate imaging technology, to validate the in vivo PET measurements, and we performed test-retest experiments to determine the reproducibility and reliability of the PET-derived measures.


The receptor occupancy curves showed that an injected tracer dose of 4.5 nmol/kg induces approximately 10% receptor occupancy, whereas 1% receptor occupancy will be achieved at tracer doses of approximately 0.45 nmol/kg. Using the bolus injection protocol and nonlinear regression analysis, we determined that the average D(2) receptor density was 9.6 ± 1.1 pmol/mL, and the apparent raclopride affinity was 5.0 ± 0.6 pmol/mL. These values agreed well with those obtained at true equilibrium conditions. In contrast, linear Scatchard analysis did not lead to the expected linear relationship because nonsaturable binding was observed at high raclopride concentrations, and thus, it seems to be unsuitable for quantitative (11)C-raclopride analysis in mice.


Our data showed that the tracer mass, if higher than 4 nmol/kg, can strongly affect binding parameter estimations and must be considered when performing kinetic analysis, specifically in mice. We also demonstrated that the in vivo determination of D(2) receptor density and raclopride affinity is feasible in mice using multiple-injection protocols and nonlinear regression analysis.

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