N-(4-18F-fluorobenzoyl)interleukin-2 for PET of human-activated T lymphocytes

J Nucl Med. 2012 May;53(5):679-86. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.111.091306. Epub 2012 Apr 12.


Interleukin-2 (IL2) binds with high affinity to the IL2 receptors overexpressed on activated T lymphocytes in various pathologic conditions. Radiolabeling of IL2 with a positron-emitting isotope could provide a tool for noninvasive PET of activated T cells in immune-mediated diseases. We report the labeling of IL2 with N-succinimidyl 4-(18)F-fluorobenzoate ((18)F-SFB) for the synthesis of N-(4-(18)F-fluorobenzoyl)interleukin-2 ((18)F-FB-IL2) and the in vitro and in vivo evaluation of this novel radiopharmaceutical for the detection of IL2 receptor-positive cells by PET.

Methods: (18)F-SFB was efficiently prepared using a 3-step radiochemical pathway. Purified (18)F-SFB was incubated with IL2 in borate buffer (pH 8.5) and ethanol at 50°C for 10 min. (18)F-FB-IL2 was purified by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. As in vitro quality controls, a biologic binding assay, sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, mass spectrometry, and 3-chloroacetic acid precipitation stability tests were performed. Biodistribution studies were performed in BALB/c mice to evaluate the distribution of the tracer in healthy animals. PET experiments were performed in severe combined immunodeficiency disease mice inoculated with phytohemoagglutinin-activated human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (hPBMc). Whole-body images were acquired 30 min after injection of 5-15 MBq of (18)F-FB-IL2.

Results: (18)F-SFB was produced with a 34%-38% radiochemical yield. The radiochemical purity after solid-phase extraction purification ranged from 93% to 96%. Conjugation of (18)F-SFB to IL2 yielded (18)F-FB-IL2 as the major product. The radiochemical yield of (18)F-FB-IL2 after high-performance liquid chromatography purification was 25%-35% based on (18)F-SFB. (18)F-FB-IL2 was stable in plasma at 37°C and capable of stimulating T cells to an extent similar to native IL2. A biodistribution study showed highest tracer uptake in the kidneys and bladder due to rapid renal clearance of the tracer. Small-animal PET images showed binding of (18)F-FB-IL2 to activated hPBMc proportional to the number of injected cells.

Conclusion: We report the successful labeling of IL2 with (18)F for PET of activated T lymphocytes. (18)F-FB-IL2 is stable, is biologically active, and allows in vivo detection of activated T lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzoates / chemistry
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Drug Stability
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / analogs & derivatives*
  • Interleukin-2 / chemistry
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-2 / pharmacokinetics
  • Mice
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Quality Control
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Succinimides / chemistry
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / diagnostic imaging*


  • Benzoates
  • Interleukin-2
  • N-(4-fluorobenzoyl)interleukin-2
  • Succinimides
  • N-succinimidyl-4-fluorobenzoate