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J Nucl Med. 1996 Apr;37(4):649-55.

Brain acetylcholinesterase activity: validation of a PET tracer in a rat model of Alzheimer's disease.

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Division of Clinical Research, Chiba Cancer Center Hospital, Japan.


We developed three radioactive acetylcholine analogs--N[14C]methyl-4-piperidyl acetate ([14C]MP4A), propionate ([14C]MP4P) and isobutyrate ([14C]MP4IB)--as radiotracers for measuring brain acetylcholinesterase (AchE) activity in vivo. The principle of our method is that the lipophilic analog diffuses into the brain where it is metabolized by AchE to produce a hydrophilic metabolite, which is trapped at the site of its production. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the tracers would have the sensitivity needed for early diagnosis of Alzheimer' disease using rats with a unilateral lesion in the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (NBM), an animal model of the cholinergic deficit in Alzheimer's disease.


Rats with a unilateral NBM lesion were prepared, and the N[14C]methyl-4-piperidyl esters and N-Isopropyl-p-[123I]iodoamphetamine([123I]IMP were injected intravenously 30 and 2 min, respectively, before the rats were killed. Uptake of 14C and 123I and AchE activity in the lesioned and unlesioned (control) sides of the cortex were measured simultaneously.


The NBM lesion showed reduced cortical AchE activity by 30%-50%, with no side-to-side differences in [123I]MP uptake. Autoradiographic studies showed that uptake of 14C from [14C]MP4A and [14C]MP4P was significantly lower in the lesioned than unlesioned side of the cortex, which agreed well with the AchE histochemical staining patterns. Tissue dissection studies showed different uptake changes for the three compounds when AchE activity in the lesioned side of the cortex was reduced by 50%: 14C uptake from [14C]MP4P, [14C]MP4A and [14C]MP4IB was reduced by 27%, 21% and 7.3%, respectively. Theoretical analysis of the observed sensitivities of the tracers in relation to their in vitro enzymatic properties indicated that tracer sensitivity was highly dependent on the enzymatic hydrolysis rate of the tracer.


The [14C]MP4A and [14C]MP4P esters had sufficient sensitivity to enable AchE activity changes in the rat cortex of less than 50% to be detected, indicating that the present method is applicable to PET diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

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