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Measuring synaptic density in mice

Updated: May 13, 2022

Synaptic pathology is associated with several brain disorders, thus positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A (SV2A) using the radioligand [11C]-UCB-J may provide a tool to measure synaptic alterations. Given the pivotal role of mouse models in understanding neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, this study aims to validate and characterize [11C]-UCB-J in mice. We performed a blocking study to verify the specificity of the radiotracer to SV2A, examined kinetic models using an image-derived input function (IDIF) for quantification of the radiotracer, and investigated the in vivo metabolism. Regional TACs during baseline showed rapid uptake of [11C]UCB-J into the brain. Pretreatment with levetiracetam confirmed target engagement in a dose-dependent manner. VT (IDIF) values estimated with one- and two-tissue compartmental models (1TCM and 2TCM) were highly comparable (r¼0.999, p < 0.0001), with 1TCM performing better than 2TCM for K1 (IDIF). A scan duration of 60 min was sufficient for reliable VT (IDIF) and K1 (IDIF) estimations. In vivo metabolism of [11C]UCB-J was relatively rapid, with a parent fraction of 22.5 4.2% at 15 min p.i. In conclusion, our findings show that [11C]UCB-J selectively binds to SV2A with optimal kinetics in the mouse representing a promising tool to noninvasively quantify synaptic density in comparative or therapeutic studies in neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorder models.


“Full quantitation is necessary to understand changes in receptor density in living organisms as a result of disease or of therapeutic intervention. Validating quantitation without blood sampling in small animals is challenging, and this work enables longitudinal study in mice using this tracer”

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