The development of monofunctional DTPA derivatives has been a major breakthrough in the labelling of proteins or peptides with a variety of radiometals. Although this methodology is simple and useful for indium-111 labelling, the stability of these conjugates is too low for most therapeutic nuclides. Cyclic chelators, such as DOTA, have shown excellent kinetic stability with a variety of radiometals, but the labelling procedure is more difficult, requiring ultra-pure reagents and a heating step that sometimes endangers the biomolecule's integrity. The aim of this work was twofold: (a) to develop a novel, open chain chelator which can be easily labelled with various radiometals, displaying higher kinetic stability than monofunctional DTPA, and (b) to evaluate this chelator in vitro and in vivo when conjugated to a CCK-B receptor ligand as a detection modality for receptor-(over-)expressing tumours. DTPA derivatives of Leu(1)- and dGlu(1)-minigastrin were synthesised. All conjugates could be labelled with (111)In or (88/90)Y at high specific activities (8.5-44.4 GBq/micro mol) and with high radiochemical purity. Serum stability testing was performed, and the labelled conjugates were compared concerning their stability against DTPA challenge. The biodistribution of the radiolabelled Leu(1)- and dGlu(1)-minigastrin derivatives was studied in tumour-bearing nude mice, in one healthy human volunteer and in three patients with metastatic medullary thyroid carcinoma. The transchelation of all tested radiometals to serum proteins was significantly slower with the DTPA-Glu conjugates as compared with their Leu analogues (e.g. transchelation t(1/2) of DTPA- dGlu(1)-minigastrin vs its Leu(1) analogue at 37 degrees C in human serum for (111)In: 239 h vs 91 h; for (90)Y: 130 h vs 53 h). In animals, all labelled CCK-B receptor ligands showed fast and specific uptake in CCK-B-receptor-positive tissues, such as the stomach and tumour, as well as a fast renal clearance pattern. However, DTPA-Leu(1)-minigastrin showed higher background activity in the whole body and those organs known to accumulate the respective free radiometal (e.g. (88)Y-DTPA-Leu(1)-minigastrin had bone uptake of 22%ID/g as compared to only 1.2%ID/g with its dGlu(1) analogue). In humans, fast tumour and stomach uptake was observed for both (111)In-labelled compounds, but DTPA- dGlu(1)-minigastrin lacked the liver, spleen and bone marrow uptake observed with its Leu(1) analogue. In conclusion, anionic amino acid derivatives of DTPA may display improved metabolic stability as compared with monofunctional DTPA conjugates. DTPA- dGlu(1)-minigastrin is preferred to "monofunctional" DTPA-Leu(1)-minigastrin for diagnostic application with (111)In for the in vivo detection of CCK-B receptor-expressing tissues.