The synthesis and in vivo antigen targeting of a novel iron oxide compound were studied. A monocrystalline iron oxide nanoparticle (MION) was synthesized that contains a small (mean diameter, 2.9 nm +/- 0.9) single crystal core, passes through capillary membranes, and exhibits superparamagnetism. The MION was attached to antimyosin Fab (R11D10) and used for immunospecific magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of cardiac infarcts One hour after intravenous administration of MION-R11D10 in rats (100 mumol/kg), a marked decrease in the signal intensity of infarcted myocardium was observed. Immunohistochemical correlation confirmed the specific binding of the immunoconjugate to infarcted, but not to normal, myocardium. No decrease in cardiac signal intensity was observed when unconjugated MION was administered intravenously. The results indicate the feasibility of immunospecific MR imaging in living organisms.