Reactive astrocytes overexpress TSPO and are detected by TSPO positron emission tomography imaging.
ABSTRACT: Astrocytes and microglia become reactive under most brain pathological conditions, making this neuroinflammation process a surrogate marker of neuronal dysfunction. Neuroinflammation is associated with increased levels of translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO) and binding sites for TSPO ligands. Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of TSPO is thus commonly used to monitor neuroinflammation in preclinical and clinical studies. It is widely considered that TSPO PET signal reveals reactive microglia, although a few studies suggested a potential contribution of reactive astrocytes. Because astrocytes and microglia play very different roles, it is crucial to determine whether reactive astrocytes can also overexpress TSPO and yield to a detectable TSPO PET signal in vivo. We used a model of selective astrocyte activation through lentiviral gene transfer of the cytokine ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) into the rat striatum, in the absence of neurodegeneration. CNTF induced an extensive activation of astrocytes, which overexpressed GFAP and become hypertrophic, whereas microglia displayed minimal increase in reactive markers. Two TSPO radioligands, [(18)F]DPA-714 [N,N-diethyl-2-(2-(4-(2-[(18)F]fluoroethoxy)phenyl)-5,7-dimethylpyrazolo[1,5-a]pyrimidin-3-yl)acetamide] and [(11)C]SSR180575 (7-chloro-N,N-dimethyl-5-[(11)C]methyl-4-oxo-3-phenyl-3,5-dihydro-4H-pyridazino[4,5-b]indole-1-acetamide), showed a significant binding in the lenti-CNTF-injected striatum that was saturated and displaced by PK11195 [N-methyl-N-(1-methylpropyl)-1-(2-chlorophenyl)-isoquinoline-3-carboxamide]. The volume of radioligand binding matched the GFAP immunopositive volume. TSPO mRNA levels were significantly increased, and TSPO protein was overexpressed by CNTF-activated astrocytes. We show that reactive astrocytes overexpress TSPO, yielding to a significant and selective binding of TSPO radioligands. Therefore, caution must be used when interpreting TSPO PET imaging in animals or patients because reactive astrocytes can contribute to the signal in addition to reactive microglia.
Project description:Neuroinflammation has long been considered a potential contributor to neurodegenerative disorders that result in dementia. Accumulation of abnormal protein aggregates in Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia, and dementia with Lewy bodies is associated with the activation of microglia and astrocytes into proinflammatory states, and chronic low-level activation of glial cells likely contributes to the pathological changes observed in these and other neurodegenerative diseases. The 18kDa translocator protein (TSPO) is a key biomarker for measuring inflammation in the brain via positron emission tomography (PET). Increased TSPO density has been observed in brain tissue from patients with neurodegenerative diseases and colocalizes to activated microglia and reactive astrocytes. Several radioligands have been developed to measure TSPO density in vivo with PET, and these have been used in clinical studies of different dementia syndromes. However, TSPO radioligands have limitations, including low specific-to-nonspecific signal and differential affinity to a polymorphism on the TSPO gene, which must be taken into consideration in designing and interpreting human PET studies. Nonetheless, most PET studies have shown that increased TSPO binding is associated with various dementias, suggesting that TSPO has potential as a biomarker to further explore the role of neuroinflammation in dementia pathogenesis and may prove useful in monitoring disease progression.
Project description:Over the last 30 years, the 18-kDa TSPO protein has been considered as the PET imaging biomarker of reference to measure increased neuroinflammation. Generally assumed to image activated microglia, TSPO has also been detected in endothelial cells and activated astrocytes. Here, we provide an exhaustive overview of the recent literature on the TSPO-PET imaging (i) in the search and development of new TSPO tracers and (ii) in the understanding of acute and chronic neuroinflammation in animal models of neurological disorders. Generally, studies testing new TSPO radiotracers against the prototypic [<sup>11</sup>C]-R-PK11195 or more recent competitors use models of acute focal neuroinflammation (e.g. stroke or lipopolysaccharide injection). These studies have led to the development of over 60 new tracers during the last 15 years. These studies highlighted that interpretation of TSPO-PET is easier in acute models of focal lesions, whereas in chronic models with lower or diffuse microglial activation, such as models of Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease, TSPO quantification for detection of neuroinflammation is more challenging, mirroring what is observed in clinic. Moreover, technical limitations of preclinical scanners provide a drawback when studying modest neuroinflammation in small brains (e.g. in mice). Overall, this review underlines the value of TSPO imaging to study the time course or response to treatment of neuroinflammation in acute or chronic models of diseases. As such, TSPO remains the gold standard biomarker reference for neuroinflammation, waiting for new radioligands for other, more specific targets for neuroinflammatory processes and/or immune cells to emerge.
Project description:The 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO) is a widely used target for microglial PET imaging radioligands, but its expression in post-mortem normal and diseased human brain is not well described. We aimed at characterizing the TSPO expression in human control (CTRL) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) brains. Specifically, we sought to: (1) define the cell type(s) expressing TSPO; (2) compare tspo mRNA and TSPO levels between AD and CTRL brains; (3) correlate TSPO levels with quantitative neuropathological measures of reactive glia and AD neuropathological changes; and (4) investigate the effects of the TSPO rs6971 SNP on tspo mRNA and TSPO levels, glial responses and AD neuropathological changes. We performed quantitative immunohistochemistry and Western blot in post-mortem brain samples from CTRL and AD subjects, as well as analysis of publicly available mouse and human brain RNA-Seq datasets. We found that: (1) TSPO is expressed not just in microglia, but also in astrocytes, endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells; (2) there is substantial overlap of tspo mRNA and TSPO levels between AD and CTRL subjects and in TSPO levels between temporal neocortex and white matter in both groups; (3) TSPO cortical burden does not correlate with the burden of activated microglia or reactive astrocytes, Aβ plaques or neurofibrillary tangles, or the cortical thickness; (4) the TSPO rs6971 SNP does not significantly impact tspo mRNA or TSPO levels, the magnitude of glial responses, the cortical thickness, or the burden of AD neuropathological changes. These results could inform ongoing efforts toward the development of reactive glia-specific PET radioligands.
Project description:Neuroinflammation is an inflammatory response in the brain and spinal cord, which can involve the activation of microglia and astrocytes. It is a common feature of many central nervous system disorders, including a range of neurodegenerative disorders. An overlap between activated microglia, pro-inflammatory cytokines and translocator protein (TSPO) ligand binding was shown in early animal studies of neurodegeneration. These findings have been translated in clinical studies, where increases in TSPO positron emission tomography (PET) signal occur in disease-relevant areas across a broad spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases. While this supports the use of TSPO PET as a biomarker to monitor response in clinical trials of novel neurodegenerative therapeutics, the clinical utility of current TSPO PET radioligands has been hampered by the lack of high affinity binding to a prevalent form of polymorphic TSPO (A147T) compared to wild type TSPO. This review details recent developments in exploration of ligand-sensitivity to A147T TSPO that have yielded ligands with improved clinical utility. In addition to developing a non-discriminating TSPO ligand, the final frontier of TSPO biomarker research requires developing an understanding of the cellular and functional interpretation of the TSPO PET signal. Recent insights resulting from single cell analysis of microglial phenotypes are reviewed.
Project description:Many studies have explored the role of TSPO (18 kDa translocator protein) as a marker of neuroinflammation using single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) or positron emission tomography (PET). In vivo imaging does not allow to determine the cells in which TSPO is altered. We propose a methodology based on fluorescence-activated cell sorting to sort different cell types of radioligand-treated tissues. We compared left/right hippocampus of rats in response to a unilateral injection of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) or saline. We finally applied this methodology in human samples (Alzheimer's disease patients and controls). Our data show that the pattern of TSPO overexpression differs across animal models of acute neuroinflammation. LPS induces a microglial expansion and an increase in microglial TSPO binding. CNTF is associated with an increase in TSPO binding in microglia and astrocytes in association with an increase in the number of microglial binding sites per cell. In humans, we show that the increase in CLINDE binding in Alzheimer's disease concerns microglia and astrocytes in the presence of a microglial expansion. Thus, the cellular basis of TSPO overexpression is condition dependent, and alterations in TSPO binding found in PET/SPECT imaging studies cannot be attributed to particular cell types indiscriminately.
Project description:The increased expression of 18 kDa Translocator protein (TSPO) is one of the few available biomarkers of neuroinflammation that can be assessed in humans in vivo by positron emission tomography (PET). TSPO PET imaging of the central nervous system (CNS) has been widely undertaken, but to date no clear consensus has been reached about its utility in brain disorders. One reason for this could be because the interpretation of TSPO PET signal remains challenging, given the cellular heterogeneity and ubiquity of TSPO in the brain. The aim of the current study was to ascertain if TSPO PET imaging can be used to detect neuroinflammation induced by a peripheral treatment with a low dose of the endotoxin, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), in a rat model (ip LPS), and investigate the origin of TSPO signal changes in terms of their cellular sources and regional distribution. An initial pilot study utilising both [<sup>18</sup>F]DPA-714 and [<sup>11</sup>C]PK11195 TSPO radiotracers demonstrated [<sup>18</sup>F]DPA-714 to exhibit a significantly higher lesion-related signal in the intracerebral LPS rat model (ic LPS) than [<sup>11</sup>C]PK11195. Subsequently, [<sup>18</sup>F]DPA-714 was selected for use in the ip LPS study. Twenty-four hours after ip LPS, there was an increased uptake of [<sup>18</sup>F]DPA-714 across the whole brain. Further analyses of regions of interest, using immunohistochemistry and RNAscope Multiplex fluorescence V2 in situ hybridization technology, showed TSPO expression in microglia, monocyte derived-macrophages, astrocytes, neurons and endothelial cells. The expression of TSPO was significantly increased after ip LPS in a region-dependent manner: with increased microglia, monocyte-derived macrophages and astrocytes in the substantia nigra, in contrast to the hippocampus where TSPO was mostly confined to microglia and astrocytes. In summary, our data demonstrate the robust detection of peripherally-induced neuroinflammation in the CNS utilising the TSPO PET radiotracer, [<sup>18</sup>F]DPA-714, and importantly, confirm that the resultant increase in TSPO signal increase arises mostly from a combination of microglia, astrocytes and monocyte-derived macrophages.
Project description:The 18-kDA translocator protein (TSPO) is consistently elevated in activated microglia of the central nervous system (CNS) in response to a variety of insults as well as neurodegenerative and psychiatric conditions. It is therefore a target of interest for molecular strategies aimed at imaging neuroinflammation in vivo. For more than 20 years, positron emission tomography (PET) has allowed the imaging of TSPO density in brain using [(11)C]-(R)-PK11195, a radiolabelled-specific antagonist of the TSPO that has demonstrated microglial activation in a large number pathological cohorts. The significant clinical interest in brain immunity as a primary or comorbid factor in illness has sparked great interest in the TSPO as a biomarker and a surprising number of second generation TSPO radiotracers have been developed aimed at improving the quality of TSPO imaging through novel radioligands with higher affinity. However, such major investment has not yet resulted in the expected improvement in image quality. We here review the main methodological aspects of TSPO PET imaging with particular attention to TSPO genetics, cellular heterogeneity of TSPO in brain tissue and TSPO distribution in blood and plasma that need to be considered in the quantification of PET data to avoid spurious results as well as ineffective development and use of these radiotracers.
Project description:Neuroinflammation is heavily associated with various neurological diseases including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. It is strongly characterized by the activation of microglia which can be visualized using position emission tomography (PET). Traditionally, translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO) has been the preferred target for imaging the inflammatory progression of the microglial component. TSPO is expressed in the outer mitochondrial membrane and present in very low concentrations in the healthy human brain, but is markedly upregulated in response to brain injury and inflammation. Due to its value as a marker of microglial activation and subsequent utility for evaluating neuroinflammation in CNS disorders, several classes of TSPO radioligands have been developed and evaluated. However, the application of these second-generation TSPO radiotracers has been subject to several limiting factors, including a polymorphism that affects TSPO binding. This review focuses on recent developments in TSPO imaging, as well as current limitations and suggestions for future directions from a medical imaging perspective.
Project description:<b>Background: </b>In vivo PET/SPECT imaging of neuroinflammation is primarily based on the estimation of the 18?kDa-translocator-protein (TSPO). However, TSPO is expressed by different cell types which complicates the interpretation.<br><br><b>Objective: </b>The present study evaluates the cellular origin of TSPO alterations in Alzheimer's disease (AD).<br><br><b>Methods: </b>The TSPO cell origin was evaluated by combining radioactive imaging approaches using the TSPO radiotracer [125I]CLINDE and fluorescence-activated cell sorting, in a rat model of AD (TgF344-AD) and in AD subjects.<br><br><b>Results: </b>In the hippocampus of TgF344-AD rats, TSPO overexpression not only concerns glial cells but the increase is visible at 12 and 24 months in astrocytes and only at 24 months in microglia. In the temporal cortex of AD subjects, TSPO upregulation involved only glial cells. However, the mechanism of this upregulation appears different with an increase in the number of TSPO binding sites per cell without cell proliferation in the rat, and a microglial cell population expansion with a constant number of binding sites per cell in human AD.<br><br><b>Conclusion: </b>These data indicate an earlier astrocyte intervention than microglia and that TSPO in AD probably is an exclusive marker of glial activity without interference from other TSPO-expressing cells. This observation indicates that the interpretation of TSPO imaging depends on the stage of the pathology, and highlights the particular role of astrocytes.
Project description:One of the cellular markers of neuroinflammation is increased microglia activation, characterized by overexpression of mitochondrial 18kDa Translocator Protein (TSPO). TSPO expression can be quantified in-vivo using the positron emission tomography (PET) radioligand [(18)F]-FEPPA. This study examined microglial activation as measured with [(18)F]-FEPPA PET across the adult lifespan in a group of healthy volunteers. We performed genotyping for the rs6971 TS.PO gene polymorphism to control for the known variability in binding affinity. Thirty-three healthy volunteers (age range: 19-82years; 22 high affinity binders (HAB), 11 mixed affinity binders (MAB)) underwent [(18)F]-FEPPA PET scans, acquired on the High Resolution Research Tomograph (HRRT) and analyzed using a 2-tissue compartment model. Regression analyses were performed to examine the effect of age adjusting for genetic status on [(18)F]-FEPPA total distribution volumes (VT) in the hippocampus, temporal, and prefrontal cortex. We found no significant effect of age on [(18)F]-FEPPA VT (F (1,30)=0.918; p=0.346), and a significant effect of genetic polymorphism (F (1,30)=8.767; p=0.006). This is the first in-vivo study to evaluate age-related changes in TSPO binding, using the new generation TSPO radioligands. Increased neuroinflammation, as measured with [(18)F]-FEPPA PET was not associated with normal aging, suggesting that healthy elderly individuals may serve as useful benchmark against patients with neurodegenerative disorders where neuroinflammation may be present.