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Synapse. 2014 Nov;68(11):556-64. doi: 10.1002/syn.21767. Epub 2014 Jul 28.

Evaluation of the sensitivity of the novel α4β2* nicotinic acetylcholine receptor PET radioligand 18F-(-)-NCFHEB to increases in synaptic acetylcholine levels in rhesus monkeys.

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  • 1Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.



18F-(-)-NCFHEB (also known as 18F-(-)-Flubatine) is a new radioligand to image α4β2* nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in vivo with positron emission tomography (PET), with faster kinetics than previous radioligands such as 18F-2-F-A85380. The goal of this study was to assess the sensitivity of 18F-(-)-NCFHEB-PET to increases in synaptic acetylcholine concentration induced by acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.


Two rhesus monkeys were scanned four times each on a Focus 220 scanner: first at baseline, then during two bolus plus infusions of physostigmine (0.06-0.28 mg/kg), and finally following a bolus injection of donepezil (0.25 mg/kg). The arterial input function and the plasma free fraction fP were measured. 18F-(-)-NCFHEB volume of distribution VT was estimated using the multilinear analysis MA1 and then normalized by plasma free fraction fP .


18F-(-)-NCFHEB fP was 0.89±0.04. At baseline, 18F-(-)-NCFHEB VT /fP ranged from 7.9±1.3 mL plasma/cm3 tissue in the cerebellum to 34.3±8.4 mL plasma/cm3 tissue in the thalamus. Physostigmine induced a dose-dependent reduction of 18F-(-)-NCFHEB VT /fP of 34±9% in the putamen, 32±8% in the thalamus, 25±8% in the cortex, and 23±10% in the hippocampus. With donepezil, 18F-(-)-NCFHEB VT /fP was reduced by 24±2%, 14+3% and 14±5%, 10±6% in the same regions.


18F-(-)-NCFHEB can be used to detect changes in synaptic acetylcholine concentration and is a promising tracer to study acetylcholine dynamics with shorter scan durations than previous radioligands.


18F-(-)-Flubatine; 18F-(-)-NCFHEB; acetylcholine; brain; donepezil; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; physostigmine; rhesus monkeys

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