It is known that membrane folic acid receptors are responsible for cellular accumulation of folate and folate analogs such as methotrexate and overexpressed on various tumor cells. However, these receptors are highly restricted in normal differentiated tissues. Results of limited in vitro and in vivo animal studies suggest that folate receptors could be a potential target for tumor imaging. This study aimed to develop a 99mTc-labeled folic acid using ethylenedicysteine (EC) as a chelator and evaluate its labeling efficiency and potential use as a tumor seeking agent. Tissue distribution of 99mTc-EC-folate was determined in breast tumor-bearing rats at 20 min, 1, 2, and 4 h (n = 3/time interval, 370 KBq/rat, i.v.). Blocking study was employed to determine receptor-mediated process; 99mTc-EC-folate was co-administrated with 50 and 150 mumol/kg of cold folic acid to tumor-bearing rats. Planar imaging and whole-body autoradiograms were performed. The data was compared to that using 99mTc-EC (control). In animal studies, tumor/blood count density ratios at 20 min-4 h increased from 0.81 +/- 0.09 to 1.23 +/- 0.13 with 99mTc-EC-folate. Conversely, these values showed time-dependent decrease from 0.77 +/- 0.32 to 0.65 +/- 0.01 with 99mTc-EC in the same time period. Tumor/muscle and tumor/blood count density ratios significantly decreased with folic acid co-administrations. Planar images and autoradiograms confirmed that the tumors could be visualized clearly with 99mTc-EC-folate.