Myeloid cell content in atherosclerotic plaques associates with rupture and thrombosis. Thus, imaging of lesional monocyte and macrophages (Mo/Mϕ) could serve as a biomarker of disease progression and therapeutic intervention.
To noninvasively assess plaque inflammation with dextran nanoparticle-facilitated hybrid PET/MR imaging.
Methods and Results
Using clinically approved building blocks, we systematically developed 13nm polymeric nanoparticles consisting of crosslinked short chain dextrans which were modified with desferoxamine for zirconium-89 radiolabeling (89Zr-DNP) and a near infrared fluorochrome (VT680) for microscopic and cellular validation. Flow cytometry of cells isolated from excised aortas showed DNP uptake predominantly in Mo/Mϕ (76.7%) and lower signal originating from other leukocytes such as neutrophils and lymphocytes (11.8% and 0.7%, p<0.05 versus Mo/Mϕ). DNP colocalized with the myeloid cell marker CD11b on immunohistochemistry. PET/MRI revealed high uptake of 89Zr-DNP in the aortic root of ApoE−/− mice (standard uptake value, ApoE−/− mice versus wild type controls, 1.9±0.28 versus 1.3±0.03, p<0.05), corroborated by ex vivo scintillation counting and autoradiography. Therapeutic silencing of the monocyte-recruiting receptor CCR2 with siRNA decreased 89Zr-DNP plaque signal (p<0.05) and inflammatory gene expression (p<0.05).
Hybrid PET/MR imaging with a 13nm DNP enables noninvasive assessment of inflammation in experimental atherosclerotic plaques and reports on therapeutic efficacy of anti-inflammatory therapy.
PET/MRI; inflammation; atherosclerosis; molecular imaging; nanoparticles
During progression of atherosclerosis, myeloid cells destabilize lipid-rich plaque in the arterial wall and cause its rupture, thus triggering myocardial infarction and stroke. Survivors of acute coronary syndromes have a high risk of recurrent events for unknown reasons. Here we show that the systemic response to ischemic injury aggravates chronic atherosclerosis. After myocardial infarction or stroke, apoE−/− mice developed larger atherosclerotic lesions with a more advanced morphology. This disease acceleration persisted over many weeks and was associated with markedly increased monocyte recruitment. When seeking the source of surplus monocytes in plaque, we found that myocardial infarction liberated hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells from bone marrow niches via sympathetic nervous system signaling. The progenitors then seeded the spleen yielding a sustained boost in monocyte production. These observations provide new mechanistic insight into atherogenesis and provide a novel therapeutic opportunity to mitigate disease progression.
Atherosclerotic lesions are believed to grow via the recruitment of bone marrow-derived monocytes. Among the known murine monocyte subsets, Ly-6Chigh monocytes are inflammatory, accumulate in lesions preferentially, and differentiate. Here we hypothesized that the bone marrow outsources the production of Ly-6Chigh monocytes during atherosclerosis.
Methods and Results
Using murine models of atherosclerosis and fate-mapping approaches, we show that hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPC) progressively relocate from the bone marrow to the splenic red pulp where they encounter GM-CSF and IL-3, clonally expand, and differentiate to Ly-6Chigh monocytes. Monocytes born in such extramedullary niches intravasate, circulate, and accumulate abundantly in atheromata. Upon lesional infiltration, Ly-6Chigh monocytes secrete inflammatory cytokines, reactive oxygen species, and proteases. Eventually, they ingest lipids and become foam cells.
Our findings indicate that extramedullary sites supplement the bone marrow’s hematopoietic function by producing circulating inflammatory cells that infiltrate atherosclerotic lesions.
Atherosclerosis; Imaging; Immune System; Immunology; Macrophage
Tissue macrophages play a critical role both in normal physiology as well in disease states. However, due to a lack of specific imaging agents, we continue to have a poor understanding of their absolute numbers, flux rates and functional states in different tissues. Here, we describe a new macrophage specific PET imaging agent, labeled with zirconium-89 (89Zr), that was based on a crosslinked, short-chain dextran nanoparticle (13 nm). Following systemic administration, the particle demonstrated a vascular half-life of 3.9 hours, and was found to locate primarily to tissue resident macrophages rather than to other white blood cells. Subsequent imaging of the probe using a xenograft mouse model of cancer allowed for quantitation of tumor associated macrophage (TAM) numbers, which are of major interest in emerging molecular targeting strategies. It is likely that the material described, which enables the visualization of macrophage biology in vivo, will likewise be useful for a multitude of human applications.
Nanoparticles; Macrophage; 89Zr; PET imaging
Exogenous cell therapy aims to replace/repair diseased or dysfunctional cells and promises to revolutionize medicine by restoring tissue and organ function. To develop effective cell therapy, the location, distribution and long-term persistence of transplanted cells must be evaluated. Nanoparticle (NP) based imaging technologies have the potential to track transplanted cells non-invasively. Here we summarize the most recent advances in NP-based cell tracking with emphasis on (1) the design criteria for cell tracking NPs, (2) protocols for cell labeling, (3) a comparison of available imaging modalities and their corresponding contrast agents, (4) a summary of preclinical studies on NP-based cell tracking and finally (5) perspectives and future directions.
We previously demonstrated that streptokinase (SK) can be used to generate active site-labeled fluorescent analogs of plasminogen (Pg) by virtue of its non-proteolytic activation of the zymogen. The method is versatile and allows for stoichiometric and active site-specific incorporation of any one of many molecular probes. The limitation of the labeling approach is that it is both time-consuming and low yield. Here we demonstrate an improved method for the preparation of labeled Pg analogs by the use of an engineered SK mutant fusion protein with both COOH- and NH2-terminal His6-tags. The NH2-terminal tag is followed by a tobacco etch virus proteinase cleavage site to ensure that the SK Ile1 residue, essential for conformational activation of Pg, is preserved. The SK COOH-terminal Lys414 residue and residues Arg253-Leu260 in the SK β-domain were deleted to prevent cleavage by plasmin (Pm), and to disable Pg substrate binding to the SK·Pg*/Pm catalytic complexes, respectively. Near-elimination of Pm generation with the SKΔ(R253-L260)ΔK414-His6 mutant increased the yield of labeled Pg 2.6-fold and reduced the time required >2-fold. The versatility of the labeling method was extended to the application of Pg labeled with a near-infrared probe to quantitate Pg receptors on immune cells by flow cytometry.
plasminogen; streptokinase; fluorescence probes; binding; kinetics; plasminogen receptors
IL-1b signaling augments continued splenic monocyte supply during acute inflammation.
Monocytes (Mo) and macrophages (MΦ) are emerging therapeutic targets in malignant, cardiovascular, and autoimmune disorders. Targeting of Mo/MΦ and their effector functions without compromising innate immunity’s critical defense mechanisms first requires addressing gaps in knowledge about the life cycle of these cells. Here we studied the source, tissue kinetics, and clearance of Mo/MΦ in murine myocardial infarction, a model of acute inflammation after ischemic injury. We found that a) Mo tissue residence time was surprisingly short (20 h); b) Mo recruitment rates were consistently high even days after initiation of inflammation; c) the sustained need of newly made Mo was fostered by extramedullary monocytopoiesis in the spleen; d) splenic monocytopoiesis was regulated by IL-1β; and e) the balance of cell recruitment and local death shifted during resolution of inflammation. Depending on the experimental approach, we measured a 24 h Mo/MΦ exit rate from infarct tissue between 5 and 13% of the tissue cell population. Exited cells were most numerous in the blood, liver, and spleen. Abrogation of extramedullary monocytopoiesis proved deleterious for infarct healing and accelerated the evolution of heart failure. We also detected rapid Mo kinetics in mice with stroke. These findings expand our knowledge of Mo/MΦ flux in acute inflammation and provide the groundwork for novel anti-inflammatory strategies for treating heart failure.
Motivated by the promise to transform preclinical research and clinical care, cardiovascular molecular imaging has made advances towards targeting coronary atherosclerosis and heart failure. We here discuss recent progress in the field, highlight how molecular imaging may facilitate preventive patient care, and review specific challenges associated with coronary and heart failure imaging. Practical considerations stress the potential of fluorescence imaging for basic research and discuss hybrid protocols such as FMT-CT and PET-MRI.
myocardial infarction; molecular imaging; healing; matrix metalloproteinase
The utility of human pluripotent stem cells is dependent on efficient differentiation protocols that convert these cells into relevant adult cell types. Here we report the robust and efficient differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into white or brown adipocytes. We found that inducible expression of PPARG2 alone or combined with CEBPB and/or PRDM16 in mesenchymal progenitor cells derived from pluripotent stem cells programmed their development towards a white or brown adipocyte cell fate with efficiencies of 85%–90%. These adipocytes retained their identity independent of transgene expression, could be maintained in culture for several weeks, expressed mature markers and had mature functional properties such as lipid catabolism and insulin-responsiveness. When transplanted into mice, the programmed cells gave rise to ectopic fat pads with the morphological and functional characteristics of white or brown adipose tissue. These results indicate that the cells could be used to faithfully model human disease.
Cardiovascular diseases; molecular imaging; diagnosis
Inflammatory monocytes -- but not the non-inflammatory subset -- depend on the chemokine receptor CCR2 for distribution to injured tissue and stimulate disease progression. Precise therapeutic targeting of this inflammatory monocyte subset could spare innate immunity's essential functions for maintenance of homeostasis and thus limit unwanted effects. Here we developed siRNA nanoparticles targeting CCR2 expression in inflammatory monocytes. We identified an optimized lipid nanoparticle and silencing siRNA sequence that when administered systemically, had rapid blood clearance, accumulated in spleen and bone marrow and showed high cellular localization of fluorescently tagged siRNA inside monocytes. Efficient degradation of CCR2 mRNA in monocytes prevented their accumulation in sites of inflammation. Specifically, the treatment attenuated their number in atherosclerotic plaques, reduced infarct size following coronary artery occlusion, prolonged normoglycemia in diabetic mice after pancreatic islet transplantation and resulted in reduced tumor volumes and lower numbers of tumor-associated macrophages. Taken together, siRNA nanoparticle-mediated CCR2 gene silencing in leukocytes selectively modulates functions of innate immune cell subtypes and may allow for the development of specific anti-inflammatory therapy.
Monocytes serve as a central defense system against infection and injury but can also promote pathological inflammatory responses. Considering the evidence that monocytes exist in at least two subsets committed to divergent functions, we investigated whether distinct factors regulate the balance between monocyte subset responses in vivo. We identified a microRNA (miRNA), miR-146a, which is differentially regulated both in mouse (Ly-6Chi/Ly-6Clo) and human (CD14hi/CD14loCD16+) monocyte subsets. The single miRNA controlled the amplitude of the Ly-6Chi monocyte response during inflammatory challenge whereas it did not affect Ly-6Clo cells. miR-146a–mediated regulation was cell-intrinsic and depended on Relb, a member of the non-canonical NF-κB/Rel family, which we identified as a direct miR-146a target. These observations not only provide novel mechanistic insights into the molecular events that regulate responses mediated by committed monocyte precursor populations but also identify novel targets to manipulate Ly-6Chi monocyte responses while sparing Ly-6Clo monocyte activity.
To date there is a lack of tools to map the spatio-temporal dynamics of diverse cells in experimental heart models. Conventional histology is labor intensive with limited coverage, whereas many imaging techniques do not have sufficiently high enough spatial resolution to map cell distributions. We have designed and built a high resolution, dual channel Born-normalized near-infrared fluorescence optical projection tomography system to quantitatively and spatially resolve molecular agents distribution within whole murine heart. We validated the use of the system in a mouse model of monocytes/macrophages recruitment during myocardial infarction. While acquired, data were processed and reconstructed in real time. Tomographic analysis and visualization of the key inflammatory components were obtained via a mathematical formalism based on left ventricular modeling. We observed extensive monocyte recruitment within and around the infarcted areas and discovered that monocytes were also extensively recruited into non-ischemic myocardium, beyond that of injured tissue, such as the septum.
Coagulase-positive Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is the major causal pathogen of acute endocarditis, a rapidly progressing, destructive infection of the heart valves. Bacterial colonization occurs at sites of endothelial damage, where (together with fibrin and platelets) it initiates the formation of abnormal growths known as vegetations. Here we report that an engineered analog of prothrombin detected S. aureus in endocarditic vegetations via noninvasive fluorescence or PET imaging. These prothrombin derivatives bound to staphylocoagulase and intercalated into growing bacterial vegetations. We also present evidence for bacterial quorum sensing in the regulation of staphylocoagulase expression by S. aureus. Staphylocoagulase expression was limited to the growing edge of mature vegetations, where it was exposed to the host and co-localized with the imaging probe. When endocarditis was induced with an S. aureus strain with genetic deletion of coagulases, survival of mice improved, highlighting the role of staphylocoagulase as a virulence factor.
endocarditis; staphylocoagulase; prothrombin; noninvasive imaging; von Willebrand factor binding protein
Recognition and clearance of bacterial infection is a fundamental property of innate immunity. Here we describe an effector B cell population that protects against microbial sepsis. Innate response activator (IRA)-B cells are phenotypically and functionally distinct, develop and diverge from B1a B cells, depend on pattern recognition receptors, and produce GM-CSF. Specific deletion of IRA-B cell activity impairs bacterial clearance, elicits a cytokine storm, and precipitates septic shock. These observations enrich our understanding of innate immunity, position IRA-B cells as gatekeepers of bacterial infection, and identify new treatment avenues for infectious diseases.
The aim of this study was to explore post-MI myocardial inflammation.
Innate immune cells are centrally involved in infarct healing and are emerging therapeutic targets in cardiovascular disease, however; clinical tools to assess their presence in tissue are scarce. Furthermore, it is currently not known if the non-ischemic remote zone recruits monocytes.
Acute inflammation was followed in mice with coronary ligation by 18FDG PET/MRI, FACS, PCR and histology.
Gd-DTPA enhanced infarcts showed high 18FDG uptake on day 5 after MI. Cell depletion and isolation data confirmed that this largely reflected inflammation; CD11b+ cells had 4-fold higher 18FDG uptake than the infarct tissue from which they were isolated (P<0.01). Surprisingly, there was considerable monocyte recruitment in the remote myocardium (~104/mg myocardium, 5.6-fold increase, P<0.01), a finding mirrored by macrophage infiltration in remote myocardium of patients with acute MI. Temporal kinetics of cell recruitment were slower than in the infarct, with peak numbers on day 10 after ischemia. Quantitative PCR showed robust increase of recruiting adhesion molecules and chemokines in remote myocardium (e.g. 12-fold increase of MCP-1), although levels were always lower than in the infarct. Finally, matrix metalloproteinase activity was significantly increased in non-infarcted myocardium, suggesting that monocyte recruitment to the remote zone may contribute to post MI dilation.
These studies shed light on the innate inflammatory response in remote myocardium after myocardial infarction.
PET/MRI; myocardial infarction; inflammation; remote myocardium
Leukocytes are central regulators of inflammation and the target cells of therapies for key diseases, including autoimmune, cardiovascular, and malignant disorders. Efficient in vivo delivery of small interfering RNA (siRNA) to immune cells could thus enable novel treatment strategies with broad applicability. In this report, we develop systemic delivery methods of siRNA encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles (LNP) for durable and potent in vivo RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated silencing in myeloid cells. This work provides the first demonstration of siRNA-mediated silencing in myeloid cell types of nonhuman primates (NHPs) and establishes the feasibility of targeting multiple gene targets in rodent myeloid cells. The therapeutic potential of these formulations was demonstrated using siRNA targeting tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) which induced substantial attenuation of disease progression comparable to a potent antibody treatment in a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In summary, we demonstrate a broadly applicable and therapeutically relevant platform for silencing disease genes in immune cells.
delivery; immune cell; siRNA
Monocyte; atherosclerosis; myocardial infarction; heart failure; wound healing; remodeling
Optical projection tomography is a three-dimensional imaging technique that has been recently introduced as an imaging tool primarily in developmental biology and gene expression studies. The technique renders biological sample optically transparent by first dehydrating them and then placing in a mixture of benzyl alcohol and benzyl benzoate in a 2:1 ratio (BABB or Murray s Clear solution). The technique renders biological samples optically transparent by first dehydrating them in graded ethanol solutions then placing them in a mixture of benzyl alcohol and benzyl benzoate in a 2:1 ratio (BABB or Murray s Clear solution) to clear. After the clearing process the scattering contribution in the sample can be greatly reduced and made almost negligible while the absorption contribution cannot be eliminated completely. When trying to reconstruct the fluorescence distribution within the sample under investigation, this contribution affects the reconstructions and leads, inevitably, to image artifacts and quantification errors.. While absorption could be reduced further with a permanence of weeks or months in the clearing media, this will lead to progressive loss of fluorescence and to an unrealistically long sample processing time. This is true when reconstructing both exogenous contrast agents (molecular contrast agents) as well as endogenous contrast (e.g. reconstructions of genetically expressed fluorescent proteins).
Current management of aortic aneurysms (AAs) primarily relies on size criteria to determine whether invasive repair is indicated to preempt rupture. We hypothesized that emerging molecular imaging tools could be used to more sensitively gauge local inflammation. Since macrophages are key effector cells that destabilize the extracellular matrix in the arterial wall, it seemed likely that they would represent suitable imaging targets. We here aimed to develop and validate macrophage-targeted nanoparticles labeled with fluorine-18 (18F) for PET-CT detection of inflammation in AAs.
Methods and Results
Aneurysms were induced in apoE−/− mice via systemic administration of angiotensin-II. Mice were imaged using PET-CT and a monocyte/macrophage-targeted nanoparticle. AAs were detected by contrast-enhanced micro-CT and had a mean diameter of 1.85 ± 0.08 mm, whereas normal aortas measured 1.07 ± 0.03 (p < 0.05). The in vivo PET signal was significantly higher in aneurysms (SUV 2.46 ± 0.48) when compared to wild type aorta (0.82 ± 0.05, p<0.05). Validation with scintillation counting, autoradiography, fluorescence and immunoreactive histology and flow cytometry demonstrated that nanoparticles predominantly localized to monocytes and macrophages within the aneurysmatic wall.
PET-CT imaging with 18F-CLIO (cross-linked iron oxide) nanoparticles allows quantitation of macrophage content in a mouse model of AAs.
Aortic aneurysm; inflammation; macrophage; PET-CT; nanoparticle
Monocytes recruited to ischemic myocardium originate from a reservoir in the spleen, and the release from their splenic niche relies on angiotensin-II (Ang-II) signaling.
Since monocytes are centrally involved in tissue repair after ischemia, we here hypothesized that early ACE inhibitor therapy impacts healing after myocardial infarction partly via effects on monocyte traffic.
Methods and Results
In a mouse model of permanent coronary ligation, Enalapril arrested the release of monocytes from the splenic reservoir and consequently reduced their recruitment into the healing infarct by 45%, as quantified by flow cytometry of digested infarcts. Time-lapse intravital microscopy revealed that Enalapril reduces monocyte motility in the spleen. In vitro migration assays and Western blotting showed that this was caused by reduced signaling through the Ang-II receptor subtype 1. We then studied the long-term consequences of blocked splenic monocyte release in atherosclerotic apoE-/- mice, in which infarct healing is impaired due to excessive inflammation in the cardiac wound. Enalapril improved histological healing biomarkers and reduced inflammation in infarcts measured by fluorescence molecular tomography (FMT-CT) of proteolytic activity. ACE inhibition improved MRI-derived ejection fraction by 14% on day 21, despite initially comparable infarct size. In apoE-/- mice, ischemia reperfusion injury resulted in larger infarct size, enhanced monocyte recruitment and was reversible by Enalapril treatment. Splenectomy reproduced anti-inflammatory effects of Enalapril.
This study suggests that benefits of early ACE inhibition after MI can partially be attributed to its potent anti-inflammatory impact on the splenic monocyte reservoir.
Monocyte; spleen; ACE inhibitor; myocardial infarction; heart failure; wound healing
Rates of graft rejection are high among recipients of heart transplants. The onset and progression of clinically significant heart transplant rejection are currently monitored by serial biopsy, but this approach is highly invasive and lacks sensitivity. Here, we have developed what we believe to be a new technique to measure organ rejection noninvasively that involves the exploration of tissue-infiltrating leukocytes as biomarker sources for diagnostic imaging. Specifically, we profiled the myeloid response in a murine model of heart transplantation with the aim of defining and validating an imaging signature of graft rejection. Ly-6Chi monocytes, which promote inflammation, accumulated progressively in allografts but only transiently in isografts. Ly-6Clo monocytes, which help resolve inflammation, did not accumulate, although they composed the majority of the few remaining monocytes in isografts. The persistence of Ly-6Chi monocytes in allografts prompted us to screen for a Ly-6Chi monocyte–associated imaging marker. Low-density array data revealed that Ly-6Chi monocytes express 10-fold higher levels of myeloperoxidase (MPO) than Ly-6Clo monocytes. Noninvasive magnetic resonance imaging of MPO with an MPO-activatable Gd-chelate revealed a spatially defined T1-weighted signal in rejected allografts but not in isografts or MPO-deficient allograft recipients. Flow cytometry, enzymography, and histology validated the approach by mapping MPO activity to Ly-6Chi monocytes and neutrophils. Thus, MPO imaging represents a potential alternative to the current invasive clinical standard by which transplants are monitored.
To test if blood monocytosis in mice with atherosclerosis affects infarct healing.
Monocytes are cellular protagonists of tissue repair and their specific subtypes regulate the healing program after MI. Inflammatory Ly-6Chi monocytes dominate on day 1-4 and digest damaged tissue; reparative Ly-6Clo monocytes dominate on day 5-10 and promote angiogenesis and scar formation. However, the monocyte repertoire is disturbed in atherosclerotic mice: Ly-6Chi monocytes expand selectively, which may disrupt the resolution of inflammation.
Methods and Results
Ex vivo analysis of 5 day-old infarcts showed >10-times more Ly-6Chi monocytes in atherosclerotic (apoE-/-) mice compared to wild type mice. The injured tissue in apoE-/- mice also showed a more pronounced inflammatory gene expression profile (e.g. increased TNF-α and MPO and decreased TGF-β) and a higher abundance of proteases, which are associated with the activity of Ly-6Chi monocytes. To relate inflammatory activity to left ventricular remodeling, we used a combination of noninvasive molecular and physiologic imaging. FMT-CT on day 5 post MI showed higher proteolysis and phagocytosis in infarcts of atherosclerotic mice. Serial MRI showed accelerated deterioration of EF between day 1 and 21 after MI in apoE-/-. Finally, we could recapitulate these features in wild-type mice with artificially–induced Ly-6Chi monocytosis.
Ly-6Chi monocytosis disturbs resolution of inflammation in murine infarcts and consequently enhances left ventricular remodeling. These findings position monocyte subsets as potential therapeutic targets to augment tissue repair after infarction and to prevent post-MI heart failure.
Many materials are unsuitable for medical use because of poor biocompatibility. Recently, advances in the high throughput synthesis of biomaterials has significantly increased the number of potential biomaterials, however current biocompatibility analysis methods are slow and require histological analysis.
Here we develop rapid, non-invasive methods for in vivo quantification of the inflammatory response to implanted biomaterials. Materials were placed subcutaneously in an array format and monitored for host responses as per ISO 10993-6: 2001. Host cell activity in response to these materials was imaged kinetically, in vivo using fluorescent whole animal imaging. Data captured using whole animal imaging displayed similar temporal trends in cellular recruitment of phagocytes to the biomaterials compared to histological analysis.
Histological analysis similarity validates this technique as a novel, rapid approach for screening biocompatibility of implanted materials. Through this technique there exists the possibility to rapidly screen large libraries of polymers in vivo.