Fluorine-18 dihydrotetrabenazine [DTBZ] analogues, which selectively target the vesicular monoamine transporter 2 [VMAT2], have been extensively studied for in vivo quantification of beta cell mass by positron-emission tomography [PET]. This study describes a novel deuterated radioligand [18F]fluoroethyl [FE]-DTBZ-d4, aimed to increase the stability against in vivo defluorination previously observed for [18F]FE-DTBZ.
[18F]FE-DTBZ-d4 was synthesized by alkylation of 9-O-desmethyl-(+)-DTBZ precursor with deuterated [18F]FE bromide ([18F]FCD2CD2Br). Radioligand binding potential [BP] was assessed by an in vitro saturation homogenate binding assay using human endocrine and exocrine pancreatic tissues. In vivo pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics [PK/PD] was studied in a porcine model by PET/computed tomography, and the rate of defluorination was quantified by compartmental modeling.
[18F]FE-DTBZ-d4 was produced in reproducible good radiochemical yield in 100 ± 20 min. Radiochemical purity of the formulated product was > 98% for up to 5 h with specific radioactivities that ranged from 192 to 529 GBq/μmol at the end of the synthesis. The in vitro BP for VMAT2 in the islet tissue was 27.0 ± 8.8, and for the exocrine tissue, 1.7 ± 1.0. The rate of in vivo defluorination was decreased significantly (kdefluorination = 0.0016 ± 0.0007 min-1) compared to the non-deuterated analogue (kdefluorination = 0.012 ± 0.002 min-1), resulting in a six fold increase in half-life stability.
[18F]FE-DTBZ-d4 has similar PK and PD properties for VMAT2 imaging as its non-deuterated analogue [18F]FE-DTBZ in addition to gaining significantly increased stability against defluorination. [18F]FE-DTBZ-d4 is a prime candidate for future preclinical and clinical studies on focal clusters of beta cells, such as in intramuscular islet grafts.