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J Nucl Med. 1997 Aug;38(8):1260-5.

Fluorine-18-FPH for PET imaging of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.

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Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Visualization of central nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) with modern PET or SPECT imaging techniques has been hampered by the lack of a radioligand with suitable in vivo binding characteristics (i.e., high target-to-nontarget ratios and kinetics appropriate for the half-life of the tracer and imaging modality used). This paper describes in vivo binding, kinetics and pharmacology of a highly potent 18F-labeled analog of epibatidine, (+/-)-exo-2-(2-[18F]fluoro-5-pyridyl)-7-azabicyclo[2.2.1]heptane ([18F]FPH), in the mouse brain with the view towards application of this tracer for PET imaging of nAChR in human brain.


Fluorine-18-FPH was administered intravenously to mice, and time-activity curves were determined for several regions in the brain and other organs. Saturation and pharmacology of [18F]FPH binding was demonstrated in vivo by preinjecting unlabeled FPH or other drugs with known pharmacological action before [18F]FPH was injected. The effect of the drugs on [18F]FPH accumulation was evaluated.


[18F]FPH was rapidly incorporated into the mouse brain; peak activity (2.4% of the injected dose) was measured at 5 min after intravenous administration, followed by washout to 1.1% injected dose (ID) at 60 min. Highest concentrations of 18F occurred at 15 min in areas known to contain high densities of nAChR ¿e.g., thalamus [9.7% of injected dose per gram tissue (ID/g¿] and superior colliculus (8.3% ID/g)]. Accumulation of the 18F tracer in hippocampus, striatum, hypothalamus and cortical areas was intermediate (5.0, 5.6, 4.2 and 5.6% ID/g, respectively) and low in the cerebellum (2.8% ID/g). The distribution of [18F]FPH in the mouse brain matched that of other in vivo nAChR probes such as 3H-labeled epibatidine or norchloroepibatidine, [3H](-)-nicotine and [3H]cytisine and that of nAChR densities determined in postmortem autoradiographic studies in rodents. Preinjection of blocking doses of unlabeled epibatidine, (-)-nicotine, lobeline and cytisine significantly inhibited [18F]FPH binding in thalamus and superior colliculus, but not in cerebellum, whereas drugs that interact with binding sites other than acetylcholine recognition sites of nAChR (e.g., mecamylamine, scopolamine, N-methylspiperone and ketanserin) had no effect on [18F]FPH accumulation in any of the brain regions examined.


Fluorine-18-FPH labels nAChR in vivo in the mouse brain. Because of its high uptake into the brain and high ratios of specific-to-nonspecific binding, this radioligand appears to be ideally suited for PET imaging of nAChR in the mammalian brain.

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