Ex vivo imaging of pancreatic beta cells using a radiolabeled GLP-1 receptor agonist

Mol Imaging Biol. 2012 Feb;14(1):79-87. doi: 10.1007/s11307-011-0481-7.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the binding specificity of the radiolabeled glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonist (Lys⁴⁰(DOTA)NH₂)Exendin-4 in the pancreas using a combination of ex vivo autoradiography and immunohistochemistry.

Procedures: Sprague-Dawley rats were administered [⁶⁴Cu](Lys⁴⁰(DOTA)NH₂)Exendin-4 i.v. with or without unlabeled Exendin (9-39) to determine binding specificity. Similar experiments were performed using Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) and Zucker lean (ZLC) rats. Animals were euthanized and the pancreas was extracted, immediately frozen, and sectioned. The sections were apposed to phosphor imaging plates, scanned, and immunostained for insulin.

Results: Co-registration of the autoradiographic and immunohistochemical images revealed that [⁶⁴Cu] (Lys⁴⁰(DOTA)NH₂)Exendin-4 specific binding was restricted to islet cells. This binding was blocked by the co-administration of Exendin(9-39) indicating that the radiotracer uptake is mediated by GLP-1R. Uptake of [⁶⁴Cu](Lys⁴⁰(DOTA)NH₂)Exendin-4 was greatly decreased in the pancreas of ZDF rats.

Conclusions: Ex vivo autoradiography results using [⁶⁴Cu](Lys⁴⁰(DOTA)NH₂)Exendin-4 suggest that GLP-1R agonists based on Exendin-4 are attractive PET ligands for the in vivo determination of β-cell mass.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoradiography / methods*
  • Copper Radioisotopes
  • Exenatide
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 1-Ring
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / diagnostic imaging*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Male
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Peptides* / chemistry
  • Peptides* / pharmacokinetics
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / chemistry
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / pharmacokinetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Zucker
  • Receptors, Glucagon / agonists*
  • Receptors, Glucagon / metabolism
  • Venoms* / chemistry
  • Venoms* / pharmacokinetics


  • Copper Radioisotopes
  • Glp1r protein, rat
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 1-Ring
  • Peptides
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Receptors, Glucagon
  • Venoms
  • 1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane- 1,4,7,10-tetraacetic acid
  • Exenatide