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Chemistry. 2013 Dec 23;19(52):18011-26. doi: 10.1002/chem.201300169. Epub 2013 Nov 7.

New calcium-selective smart contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging.

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  • 1Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Dept. of Physiology of Cognitive Processes, 72076 Tübingen (Germany); Present address: Case NFCR Center for Imaging Research, Dept. of Radiology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH (USA).


Calcium plays a vital role in the human body and especially in the central nervous system. Precise maintenance of Ca(2+) levels is very crucial for normal cell physiology and health. The deregulation of calcium homeostasis can lead to neuronal cell death and brain damage. To study this functional role played by Ca(2+) in the brain noninvasively by using magnetic resonance imaging, we have synthesized a new set of Ca(2+) -sensitive smart contrast agents (CAs). The agents were found to be highly selective to Ca(2+) in the presence of other competitive anions and cations in buffer and in physiological fluids. The structure of CAs comprises Gd(3+)-DO3A (DO3A=1,4,7-tris(carboxymethyl)-1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane) coupled to a Ca(2+) chelator o-amino phenol-N,N,O-triacetate (APTRA). The agents are designed to sense Ca(2+) present in extracellular fluid of the brain where its concentration is relatively high, that is, 1.2-0.8 mM. The determined dissociation constant of the CAs to Ca(2+) falls in the range required to sense and report changes in extracellular Ca(2+) levels followed by an increase in neural activity. In buffer, with the addition of Ca(2+) the increase in relaxivity ranged from 100-157%, the highest ever known for any T1-based Ca(2+)-sensitive smart CA. The CAs were analyzed extensively by the measurement of luminescence lifetime measurement on Tb(3+) analogues, nuclear magnetic relaxation dispersion (NMRD), and (17)O NMR transverse relaxation and shift experiments. The results obtained confirmed that the large relaxivity enhancement observed upon Ca(2+) addition is due to the increase of the hydration state of the complexes together with the slowing down of the molecular rotation and the retention of a significant contribution of the water molecules of the second sphere of hydration.


calcium; gadolinium; magnetic resonance imaging; relaxivity; sensors

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