Molecular imaging is an important new direction in medical diagnosis; however, its success is dependent upon molecular probes that demonstrate selective tissue targeting. We report the design and chemical synthesis of a derivative of human amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide that is capable of selectively targeting individual amyloid plaques in the brain of Alzheimer's disease transgenic mice after being intravenously injected. This derivative is based on the sequence of the first 30 amino acid residues of Aβ with asparagyl/glutamyl-4-aminobutane residues (N-4ab/Q-4ab) substituted at unique Asp and Glu positions and with Gd-DTPA-aminohexanoic acid covalently attached at the N-terminal Asp. The Gd[N-4ab/Q-4ab]Aβ30 peptide was homogeneous as shown by high-resolution analytical techniques with a mass of ±4385 Da determined by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. This diamine- and gadolinium-substituted derivative of Aβ is shown to have enhanced in vitro binding to Alzheimer's disease (AD) amyloid plaques and increased in vivo permeability at the blood-brain barrier because of the unique Asp/Glu substitutions. In addition, specific in vivo targeting to AD amyloid plaques is demonstrated throughout the brain of an APP, PS1 transgenic mouse after intravenous injection. Because of the magnetic resonance (MR) imaging contrast enhancement provided by gadolinium, this derivative should enable the in vivo MR imaging of individual amyloid plaques in the brains of AD animals or patients to allow for early diagnosis and also provide a direct measure of the efficacy of anti-amyloid therapies currently being developed.
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