Concentration-independent MRI of pH with a dendrimer-based pH-responsive nanoprobe
The measurement of extracellular pH (pHe ) has significant clinical value for pathological diagnoses and for monitoring the effects of pH-altering therapies. One of the major problems of measuring pHe with a relaxation-based MRI contrast agent is that the longitudinal relaxivity depends on both pH and the concentration of the agent, requiring the use of a second pH-unresponsive agent to measure the concentration. Here we tested the feasibility of measuring pH with a relaxation-based dendritic MRI contrast agent in a concentration-independent manner at clinically relevant field strengths. The transverse and longitudinal relaxation times in solutions of the contrast agent (GdDOTA-4AmP)44 -G5, a G5-PAMAM dendrimer-based MRI contrast agent in water, were measured at 3 T and 7 T magnetic field strengths as a function of pH. At 3 T, longitudinal relaxivity (r1 ) increased from 7.91 to 9.65 mM(-1) s(-1) (on a per Gd(3+) basis) on changing pH from 8.84 to 6.35. At 7 T, r1 relaxivity showed pH response, albeit at lower mean values; transverse relaxivity (r2 ) remained independent of pH and magnetic field strengths. The longitudinal relaxivity of (GdDOTA-4AmP)44 -G5 exhibited a strong and reversible pH dependence. The ratio of relaxation rates R2 /R1 also showed a linear relationship in a pH-responsive manner, and this pH response was independent of the absolute concentration of (GdDOTA-4AmP)44 -G5 agent. Importantly, the nanoprobe (GdDOTA-4AmP)44 -G5 shows pH response in the range commonly found in the microenvironment of solid tumors.