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Bioconjug Chem. 2019 Jun 19;30(6):1745-1753. doi: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.9b00280. Epub 2019 Jun 5.

Improving the Theranostic Potential of Exendin 4 by Reducing the Renal Radioactivity through Brush Border Membrane Enzyme-Mediated Degradation.

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Department of Nuclear Medicine, Xijing Hospital , Fourth Military Medical University , Xi'an , Shannxi 710032 , China.
Laboratory of Molecular Imaging and Nanomedicine , National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health , Bethesda , Maryland 20892 , United States.


As highly expressed in insulinomas, the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) is believed to be an attractive target for diagnosis, localization, and treatment with radiolabeled exendin 4. However, the high and persistent radioactivity accumulation of exendin 4 in the kidneys limits accurate diagnosis and safe, as well as effective, radiotherapy in insulinomas. In this study, we intend to reduce the renal accumulation of radiolabeled exendin 4 through degradation mediated by brush border membrane enzymes. A new exendin 4 ligand NOTA-MVK-Cys40-Leu14-Exendin 4 containing Met-Val-Lys (MVK) linker between the peptide and 1,4,7-triazacyclononane-1,4,7-triacetic acid (NOTA) chelator was synthesized and labeled with 68Ga. The in vitro mouse serum stability and cell binding affinity of the tracer were evaluated. Initial in vitro cleavage of the linker was determined by incubation of a model compound Boc-MVK-Dde with brush border membrane vesicles (BBMVs) with and without the inhibitor of neutral endopeptidase (NEP). Further cleavage studies were performed with the full structure of NOTA-MVK-Cys40-Leu14-Exendin 4. Kidney and urine samples were collected in the in vivo metabolism study after intravenous injection of 68Ga-NOTA-MVK-Cys40-Leu14-Exendin 4. The microPET images were acquired in INS-1 tumor model at different time points; the radioactivity uptake of 68Ga-NOTA-MVK-Cys40-Leu14-Exendin 4 in tumor and kidneys were determined and compared with the control radiotracer without MVK linker. 68Ga-NOTA-MVK-Cys40-Leu14-Exendin 4 was stable in mouse serum. The MVK modification did not affect the affinity of NOTA-MVK-Cys40-Leu14-Exendin 4 toward GLP-1R. The in vitro cleavage study and in vivo metabolism study confirmed that the MVK sequence can be recognized by BBM enzymes and cleaved at the amide bond between Met and Val, thus releasing the small fragment containing Met. MicroPET images showed that the tumor uptake of 68Ga-NOTA-MVK-Cys40-Leu14-Exendin 4 was comparable to that of the control, while the kidney uptake was significantly reduced. As a result, more favorable tumor to kidney ratios were achieved. In this study, a novel exendin 4 analogue, NOTA-MVK-Cys40-Leu14-Exendin 4, was successfully synthesized and labeled with 68Ga. With the cleavable MVK sequence, this ligand could be cleaved by the enzymes on kidneys, and releasing the fragment of 68Ga-NOTA-Met-OH, which will rapidly excrete from urine. As the high and consistent renal radioactivity accumulation could be significantly reduced, NOTA-MVK-Cys40-Leu14-Exendin 4 shows great potential in the diagnosis and radiotherapy for insulinoma.

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