Molecular MRI of early thrombus formation using a bimodal alpha2-antiplasmin-based contrast agent
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OBJECTIVES: We aimed to investigate whether early thrombus formation can be visualized with in vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by the use of a novel bimodal alpha(2)-antiplasmin-based contrast agent (CA). BACKGROUND: Thrombus formation plays a central role in several vascular diseases. During the early phases of thrombus formation, activated factor XIII (FXIIIa) covalently cross-links alpha(2)-antiplasmin to fibrin, indicating the potential of alpha(2)-antiplasmin-based CAs in the detection of early thrombus formation. METHODS: A bimodal CA was synthesized by coupling gadolinium-diethylene triamine pentaacetic acid and rhodamine to an alpha(2)-antiplasmin-based peptide. For the control CA, a glutamine residue essential for cross-linking was replaced by alanine. In vitro-generated thrombi were exposed to both CAs and imaged by MRI and 2-photon laser-scanning microscopy. Immunohistochemistry was performed on human pulmonary thromboemboli sections to determine the presence of alpha(2)-antiplasmin and FXIII in different thrombus remodeling phases. In vivo feasibility of the CA in detecting early thrombus formation specifically was investigated with MRI. RESULTS: In vitro-generated thrombi exposed to the alpha(2)-antiplasmin-based CA showed hyperintense magnetic resonance signal intensities at the thrombus edge. No hyperintense signal was observed when we used the alpha(2)-antiplasmin-based CA in the presence of FXIII inhibitor dansylcadaverine nor when we used the control CA. Two-photon laser-scanning microscopy demonstrated that the alpha(2)-antiplasmin-based CA bound to fibrin. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated substantial alpha(2)-antiplasmin staining in fresh compared with lytic and organized thrombi. The administration of CA in vivo within seconds after inducing thrombus formation increased contrast-to-noise ratios (CNRs 2.28 +/- 0.39, n=6) at the site of thrombus formation compared with the control CA (CNRs -0.14 +/- 0.55, p = 0.003, n = 6) and alpha(2)-antiplasmin-based CA administration 24 to 48 h after thrombus formation (CNRs 0.11 +/- 0.23, p = 0.006, n = 6). CONCLUSIONS: A bimodal CA was developed, characterized, and validated. Our results showed that this bimodal CA enabled noninvasive in vivo magnetic resonance visualization of early thrombus formation.