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Neurotransmitter-Responsive Nanosensors for T2-Weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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Hsieh, V., Okada, S., García-Álvarez, I., Barandov, A., Recuenco Alvarado, S., Wei, H., et al. (2019). Neurotransmitter-Responsive Nanosensors for T2-Weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Poster presented at ACSMEDI-EFMC Medicinal Chemistry Frontiers 2019, Krakow, Poland.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000C-F867-9
Neurotransmitter-sensitive contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have recently been used for mapping signaling dynamics in live animal brains, but current paramagnetic sensors for T1-weighted MRI are effective only at micromolar concentrations that themselves perturb neurochemistry. Here we present an alternative molecular architecture for detecting neurotransmitters, using superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles conjugated to tethered neurotransmitter analogs and engineered neurotransmitter binding proteins. Interactions between the nanoparticle conjugates result in clustering that is reversibly disrupted in the presence of neurotransmitter analytes, thus altering T2-weighted MRI signals. We demonstrate this principle using tethered dopamine and serotonin analogs, together with proteins selected for their ability to competitively bind either the analogs or the neurotransmitters themselves. The corresponding sensors for dopamine and serotonin exhibit relaxivity changes of up to 20% and selectivity for their targets versus other monoamines. Importantly, they also operate at nanomolar levels, with neurotransmitter binding capacities below endogenous neurotransmitter concentrations. Semisynthetic magnetic particle sensors thus represent a promising path for minimally perturbative molecular MRI-based studies of neurochemical analytes in the brain.