Highly Sensitive Detection of Caspase-3/7 Activity in Living Mice Using Enzyme-Responsive 19 F MRI Nanoprobes

Kazuki Akazawa, Fuminori Sugihara, Tatsuya Nakamura, Shin Mizukami, Kazuya Kikuchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Highly sensitive imaging of enzymatic activities in the deep tissues of living mammals provides useful information about their biological functions and for developing new drugs; however, such imaging is challenging. 19 F magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is suitable for noninvasive visualization of enzymatic activities without endogenous background signals. Although various enzyme-responsive 19 F MRI probes have been developed, most cannot be used for in vivo imaging because of their low sensitivity. Recently, we developed unique nanoparticles, called FLAMEs, that are composed of a liquid perfluorocarbon core and a robust silica shell, and demonstrated their outstanding sensitivity in vivo. Here, we report a highly functionalized nanoprobe, FLAME-DEVD 2, with an OFF/ON 19 F MRI switch for detecting caspase-3/7 activity based on the paramagnetic relaxation enhancement effect. To improve the cleavage efficiency of peptides by caspase-3, we designed a novel Gd 3+ complex-conjugated peptide, DEVD X (X = 1, 2), which is a substrate peptide sequence tandemly repeated X times, and demonstrated that DEVD 2 showed faster cleavage kinetics than DEVD 1. By incorporating this novel concept into a signal activation strategy, FLAME-DEVD 2 showed a high 19 F MRI signal enhancement rate in response to caspase-3 activity. After intravenous injection of FLAME-DEVD 2 and an apoptosis-inducing reagent, caspase-3/7 activity in the spleen of a living mouse was successfully imaged by 19 F MRI. This imaging platform shows great potential for highly sensitive detection of enzymatic activities in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1720-1728
Number of pages9
JournalBioconjugate chemistry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May 16

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry

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