Annexin A5 Uptake in Ischemic Myocardium: Demonstration of Reversible Phosphatidylserine Externalization and Feasibility of Radionuclide Imaging

Heidi Kenis, Harmen Reinier Zandbergen, Leonard Hofstra, Artiom D. Petrov, Ewald A. Dumont, Francis D. Blankenberg, Nezam Haider, Nicole Bitsch, Marion Gijbels, Johan W. H. Verjans, Navneet Narula, Jagat Narula*, Chris P. M. Reutelingsperger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Ischemic insult to the myocardium is associated with cardiomyocyte apoptosis. Because apoptotic cell death is characterized by phosphatidylserine externalization on cell membrane and annexin-A5 (AA5) avidly binds to phosphatidylserine, we hypothesized that radiolabeled AA5 should be able to identify the regions of myocardial ischemia. Methods: Models of brief myocardial ischemia by the occlusion of the coronary artery for 10 min (I-10) and reperfusion for 180 min (R-180) for the detection of phosphatidylserine exteriorization using Tc-99m-labeled AA5 and gamma-imaging were produced in rabbits. Tc-99m-AA5 uptake after brief ischemia was compared with an I-40/R-180 infarct model. Histologic characterization of both myocardial necrosis and apoptosis was performed in ischemia and infarct models. Phosphatidylserine exteriorization was also studied in a mouse model, and the dynamics and kinetics of phosphatidylserine exposure were assessed using unlabeled recombinant AA5 and AA5 labeled with biotin, Oregon Green, or Alexa 568. Appropriate controls were established. Results: Phosphatidylserine exposure after ischemia in the rabbit heart could be detected by radionuclide imaging with Tc-99m-AA5. Pathologic characterization of the explanted rabbit hearts did not show apoptosis or necrosis. Homogenization and ultracentrifugation of the ischemic myocardial tissue from rabbit hearts recovered two thirds of the radiolabeled AA5 from the cytoplasmic compartment. Murine experiments demonstrated that the cardiomyocytes expressed phosphatidylserine on their cell surface after an ischemic insult of 5 min. Phosphatidylserine exposure occurred continuously for at least 6 h after solitary ischemic insult. AA5 targeted the exposed phosphatidylserine on cardiomyocytes; AA5 was internalized into cytoplasmic vesicles within 10-30 min. Twenty-four hours after ischemia, cardiomyocytes with internalized AA5 had restored phosphatidylserine asymmetry of the sarcolemma, and no detectable phosphatidylserine remained on the cell surface. The preadministration of a pan-caspase inhibitor, zVAD-fmk, prevented phosphatidylserine exposure after ischemia. Conclusions: After a single episode of ischemia, cardiomyocytes express phosphatidylserine, which is amenable to targeting by AA5, for at least 6 h. Phosphatidylserine exposure is transient and internalized in cytoplasmic vesicles after AA5 binding, indicating the reversibility of the apoptotic process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-267
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2010


  • programmed cell death
  • radionuclide imaging
  • caspase
  • apoptosis
  • ischemic memory

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