Abnormal accumulation of tau aggregates in the brain is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer disease neuropathology. We visualized tau deposition in vivo with the previously developed 2-arylquinoline derivative 18F-THK5117 using small-animal PET in conjunction with autoradiography and immunohistochemistry gold standard assessment in 2 transgenic mouse models expressing hyperphosphorylated tau. Small-animal PET recordings were obtained in groups of P301S (n 5 11) and biGT mice (n 5 16) of different ages, with agematched wild-type (WT) serving as controls. After intravenous administration of 16 2 MBq of 18F-THK5117, a dynamic 90-min emission recording was initiated for P301S mice and during 20 50 min after injection for biGT mice, followed by a 15-min transmission scan. After coregistration to the MRI atlas and scaling to the cerebellum, we performed volume-of-interest based analysis (SUV ratio [SUVR]) and statistical parametric mapping. Small-animal PET results were compared with autoradiography ex vivo and in vitro and further validated with AT8 staining for neurofibrillary tangles. SUVRs calculated from static recordings during the interval of 20 50 min after tracer injection correlated highly with estimates of binding potential based on the entire dynamic emission recordings (R 5 0.85). SUVR increases were detected in the brain stem of aged P301S mice (111%; P < 0.001) and in entorhinal/amygdaloidal areas (115%; P < 0.001) of biGT mice when compared with WT, whereas aged WT mice did not show increased tracer uptake. Immunohistochemical tau loads correlated with small-animal PET SUVR for both P301S (R 5 0.8; P < 0.001) and biGT (R 5 0.7; P < 0.001) mice, and distribution patterns of AT8-positive neurons matched voxelwise statistical parametric mapping analysis. Saturable binding of the tracer was verified by autoradiographic blocking studies. In the first dedicated small-animal PET study in 2 different transgenic tauopathy mouse models using the tau tracer 18F-THK5117, the temporal and spatial progression could be visualized in good correlation with gold standard assessments of tau accumulation. The serial small-animal PET method could afford the means for preclinical testing of novel therapeutic approaches by accommodating interanimal variability at baseline, while detection thresholds in young animals have to be considered. 2016 by the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Inc.
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