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Imaging B cells in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis using (64)Cu-Rituximab-PET.


B lymphocytes are a key pathological feature of multiple sclerosis (MS), and are becoming an important therapeutic target for this condition. Currently, there is no approved technique to non-invasively visualize B cells in the central nervous system (CNS) to monitor MS disease progression and response to therapies. Here we evaluated (64)Cu-Rituximab, a radiolabeled antibody specifically targeting the human B cell marker CD20, for its ability to image B cells in a mouse model of MS using positron emission tomography (PET). Methods: To model CNS infiltration by B cells, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) was induced in transgenic mice that express human CD20 on B cells. EAE mice were given subcutaneous injections of Myelin Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein fragment1-125 (MOG1-125) emulsified in complete Freund's adjuvant. Control mice received complete Freund's adjuvant alone. PET imaging of EAE and control mice was performed 1, 4, and 19h following (64)Cu-Rituximab administration. Mice were perfused and sacrificed after final PET scan, and radioactivity in dissected tissues was measured with a gamma-counter. CNS tissues from these mice were immunostained to quantify B cells or further analyzed via digital autoradiography. Results: Lumbar spinal cord PET signal was significantly higher in EAE mice compared to controls at all evaluated time points (e.g., 1h post-injection: 5.44 ± 0.37 vs. 3.33 ± 0.20 %ID/g, p<0.05). (64)Cu-Rituximab-PET signal in brain regions ranged between 1.74 ± 0.11 and 2.93 ± 0.15 %ID/g for EAE mice compared to 1.25±0.08 and 2.24±0.11%ID/g for controls, p<0.05 for all regions except striatum and thalamus at 1h post-injection. Similarly, ex vivo biodistribution results revealed notably higher (64)Cu-Rituximab uptake in brain and spinal cord of huCD20tg EAE, and B220 immunostaining verified that increased (64)Cu-Rituximab uptake in CNS tissues corresponded with elevated B cells. Conclusion: B cells can be detected in the CNS of EAE mice using (64)Cu-Rituximab-PET. Results from these studies warrant further investigation of (64)Cu-Rituximab in EAE models and consideration of use in MS patients to evaluate its potential for detecting and monitoring B cells in the progression and treatment of this disease. These results represent an initial step toward generating a platform to evaluate B cell-targeted therapeutics en route to the clinic.