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J Nucl Med. 2014 Feb;55(2):301-7. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.113.126318. Epub 2014 Jan 16.

In vivo tracking of Th1 cells by PET reveals quantitative and temporal distribution and specific homing in lymphatic tissue.

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Department of Preclinical Imaging and Radiopharmacy, Werner Siemens Imaging Center, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Germany.


Although T cells can be labeled for noninvasive in vivo imaging, little is known about the impact of such labeling on T-cell function, and most imaging methods do not provide holistic information about trafficking kinetics, homing sites, or quantification.


We developed protocols that minimize the inhibitory effects of (64)Cu-pyruvaldehyde-bis(N4-methylthiosemicarbazone) ((64)Cu-PTSM) labeling on T-cell function and permit the homing patterns of T cells to be followed by PET. Thus, we labeled ovalbumin (OVA) T-cell receptor transgenic interferon (IFN)-γ-producing CD4(+) T (Th1) cells with 0.7-2.2 MBq of (64)Cu-PTSM and analyzed cell viability, IFN-γ production, proliferation, apoptosis, and DNA double-strand breaks and identified intracellular (64)Cu accumulation sites by energy dispersive x-ray analysis. To elucidate the fate of Th1 cell homing by PET, 10(7 64)Cu-OVA-Th1 cells were injected intraperitoneally or intravenously into healthy mice. To test the functional capacities of (64)Cu-OVA-Th1 cells during experimental OVA-induced airway hyperreactivity, we injected 10(7 64)Cu-OVA-Th1 cells intraperitoneally into OVA-immunized or nonimmunized healthy mice, which were challenged with OVA peptide or phosphate-buffered saline or remained untreated. In vivo PET investigations were followed by biodistribution, autoradiography, and fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis.


PET revealed unexpected homing patterns depending on the mode of T-cell administration. Within 20 min after intraperitoneal administration, (64)Cu-OVA-Th1 cells homed to the perithymic lymph nodes (LNs) of naive mice. Interestingly, intravenously administered (64)Cu-OVA-Th1 cells homed predominantly into the lung and spleen but not into the perithymic LNs. The accumulation of (64)Cu-OVA-Th1 cells in the pulmonary LNs (6.8 ± 1.1 percentage injected dose per cubic centimeter [%ID/cm(3)]) 24 h after injection was highest in the OVA-immunized and OVA-challenged OVA airway hyperreactivity-diseased littermates 24 h after intraperitoneal administration and lowest in the untreated littermates (3.7 ± 0.4 %ID/cm(3)). As expected, (64)Cu-OVA-Th1 cells also accumulated significantly in the pulmonary LNs of nonimmunized OVA-challenged animals (6.1 ± 0.5 %ID/cm(3)) when compared with phosphate-buffered saline-challenged animals (4.6 ± 0.5 %ID/cm(3)).


Our protocol permits the detection of Th1 cells in single LNs and enables temporal in vivo monitoring of T-cell homing over 48 h. This work enables future applications for (64)Cu-PTSM-labeled T cells in clinical trials and novel therapy concepts focusing on T-cell-based immunotherapies of autoimmune diseases or cancer.


64Cu-PTSM; in vivo cell tracking; murine Th1 cells; small animal PET

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