Theranostics 2021; 11(18):9118-9132. doi:10.7150/thno.60132

Research Paper

Targeted design of a recombinant tracer for SPECT renal imaging

Pan Liu1,2, Steven E. Johnson2, Xinfang Xie1,2,4, Li Gao1,2,5, Chad R. Haney3, Ming Zhao2, Jing Jin1,2✉

1. Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.
2. Feinberg Cardiovascular and Renal Research Institute, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.
3. Center for Advanced Molecular Imaging, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.
4. Department of Nephrology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Medical College, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China.
5. Department of Cardiology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Medical College, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China.

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Citation:
Liu P, Johnson SE, Xie X, Gao L, Haney CR, Zhao M, Jin J. Targeted design of a recombinant tracer for SPECT renal imaging. Theranostics 2021; 11(18):9118-9132. doi:10.7150/thno.60132. Available from https://www.thno.org/v11p9118.htm

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Abstract

Rationale: A robust radiopharmaceutical has high uptake in the target and low retention in non-target tissues. However, traditional tracers for renal imaging that chemically chelate 99mTc are excreted through the renal route with transient resident time in the kidney. Following a rational design approach, we constructed a protein-based radiotracer, designated PBT-Fc, to sequentially bind tubular neonatal Fc-receptor and subsequently proximal tubular basement membrane for its targeted sequestration in kidney parenchyma. In this process, the tracer participates in physiologic glomerular filtration and tubular reabsorption while escaping lysosomal catabolism and urinary clearance.

Methods: To specifically target renal receptors in navigating the urinary passage in the kidney, we produced a recombinant fusion protein with two separate functional parts: a polybasic PBT segment derived from human Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor and Fc segment of IgG1. The chimeric fusion of PBT-Fc was labeled with radionuclide 99mTc and tested in rodent models of kidney diseases. Planar scintigraphy and single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) were performed to evaluate renal-specificity of the tracer.

Results: When injected in mouse and rat, following a brief 10 - 15 min dynamic redistribution phase in circulation, ~ 95% of the [99mTc]-PBT-Fc signal was concentrated in the kidney and lasted for hours without urinary loss or surrounding tissue activities. Long-lasting tracer signals in the kidney cortex in conjunction with SPECT greatly augmented the image quality in detecting pathological lesions in a variety of disease models, including ischemic acute kidney injury, drug-induced renal toxicity, and chronic kidney disease from renin-angiotensin system (RAS) overactivation.

Conclusion: Exclusive renal retention of the recombinant radiotracer greatly facilitated static-phase signal acquisition by SPECT and achieved submillimeter spatial resolution of kidney alternations in glomerular and tubular disease models.

Keywords: Nuclear Medicine Imaging, Renal scan, Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), Radiotracer, Recombinant protein probe, Neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn)