The effect of molecular weight on nonspecific accumulation of (99m)T-labeled proteins in inflammatory foci

Nucl Med Biol. 2001 May;28(4):401-8. doi: 10.1016/s0969-8051(01)00208-6.


Although several proteins have been proposed and tested for scintigraphic detection of infection, the most optimal characteristics of a protein for this application have not yet been determined. Molecular weight (MW) of the protein, its charge, shape, carbohydrate content, characteristics of the radionuclide and receptor interactions are factors that could affect the in vivo behavior of the infection imaging agent. The effect of molecular weight on nonspecific accumulation of (99m)Tc-labeled proteins in inflammatory foci was studied in a rat model.

Methods: Eleven proteins whose MWs ranged from 2.5 kDa up to 800 kDa were labeled with (99m)Tc using the hydrazinonicotinamide (HYNIC) chelator. Rats with S. aureus infection were injected i.v. with 15 MBq (99m)Tc-labeled protein. Gamma camera images were acquired and biodistribution of the radiolabel was determined ex vivo.

Results: From biodistribution data no significant correlation was found between abscess uptake and molecular size of the (99m)Tc-labeled proteins that were studied. Fast blood clearance with predominant uptake in liver and spleen was found for the largest proteins (MW 669 kDa-800 kDA). For proteins of intermediate size (MW 66 kDa -206 kDa) we found relatively slow blood clearance with relatively moderate uptake in liver and spleen. For smaller proteins (MW 2.5 kDa -29 kDa) rapid blood clearance with predominant kidney uptake was observed. The abscess uptake of the (99m)Tc-labeled proteins (%ID/g, 24 h p.i.) was highest for serum proteins IgG and BSA. Abscess uptake correlated well with blood levels: r = 0.95 and 0.84 at 4 and 24 h respectively (P < 0.005). The abscess-to-muscle ratios varied from 2.1 to 17.8 at 24 h p.i. with highest values for alpha-2 macroglobulin (MW 725 kDa) and the intermediate sized proteins (MW 66-206 kDa). Gamma camera imaging showed localization of all radiotracers at the site of infection with abscess-to-background ratios (A/B) ranging from 1.4 to 7.0 (IgG) at 20 h p.i. The serum proteins IgG and BSA showed highest blood levels and best infection imaging characteristics.

Conclusion: Not molecular weight but blood residence time is the principal factor that determines localization of a nonspecific tracer protein in infectious foci. The ideal nonspecific infection imaging agent is a protein with a long circulatory half-life. From the proteins tested here IgG and albumin showed the best characteristics for an infection imaging agent.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Male
  • Molecular Weight
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / pharmacokinetics*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / chemistry
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / isolation & purification
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / pharmacokinetics*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Technetium / isolation & purification
  • Technetium / pharmacokinetics*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Proteins
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Technetium