Molecular imaging of macrophage protease activity in cardiovascular inflammation in vivo

Thromb Haemost. 2011 May;105(5):828-36. doi: 10.1160/TH10-09-0589. Epub 2011 Jan 12.


Macrophages contribute pivotally to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), notably to atherosclerosis. Imaging of macrophages in vivo could furnish new tools to advance evaluation of disease and therapies. Proteolytic enzymes serve as key effectors of many macrophage contributions to CVD. Therefore, intravital imaging of protease activity could aid evaluation of the progress and outcome of atherosclerosis, aortic aneurysm formation, or rejection of cardiac allografts. Among the large families of proteases, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and cysteinyl cathepsins have garnered the most interest because of their participation in extracellular matrix remodelling. These considerations have spurred the development of dedicated imaging agents for protease activity detection. Activatable fluorescent probes, radiolabelled inhibitors, and nanoparticles are currently under exploration for this purpose. While some agents and technologies may soon see clinical use, others will require further refinement. Imaging of macrophages and protease activity should provide an important adjunct to understanding pathophysiology in vivo, evaluating the effects of interventions, and ultimately aiding clinical care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / immunology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Cathepsins / metabolism*
  • Diagnostic Imaging* / methods
  • Diagnostic Imaging* / trends
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism*
  • Nanoparticles
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Cathepsins
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases