A Fluorescent, [18F]-Positron-Emitting Agent for Imaging Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen Allows Genetic Reporting in Adoptively Transferred, Genetically Modified Cells

ACS Chem Biol. 2019 Jul 19;14(7):1449-1459. doi: 10.1021/acschembio.9b00160. Epub 2019 Jun 17.


Clinical trials involving genome-edited cells are growing in popularity, where CAR-T immunotherapy and CRISPR/Cas9 editing are more recognized strategies. Genetic reporters are needed to localize the molecular events inside these cells in patients. Specifically, a nonimmunogenic genetic reporter is urgently needed as current reporters are immunogenic due to derivation from nonhuman sources. Prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) is potentially nonimmunogenic due to its natural, low-level expression in select tissues (self-MHC display). PSMA overexpression on human prostate adenocarcinoma is also visible with excellent contrast. We exploit these properties in a transduced, two-component, Human-Derived, Genetic, Positron-emitting, and Fluorescent (HD-GPF) reporter system. Mechanistically analogous to the luciferase and luciferin reporter, PSMA is genetically encoded into non-PSMA expressing 8505C cells and tracked with ACUPA-Cy3-BF3, a single, systemically injected small molecule that delivers positron emitting fluoride (18F) and a fluorophore (Cy3) to report on cells expressing PSMA. PSMA-lentivirus transduced tissues become visible by Cy3 fluorescence, [18F]-positron emission tomography (PET), and γ-scintillated biodistribution. HD-GPF fluorescence is visible at subcellular resolution, while a reduced PET background is achieved in vivo, due to rapid ACUPA-Cy3-BF3 renal excretion. Co-transduction with luciferase and GFP show specific advantages over popular genetic reporters in advanced murine models including, a "mosaic" model of solid-tumor intratumoral heterogeneity and a survival model for observing postsurgical recurrence. We report an advanced genetic reporter that tracks genetically modified cells in entire animals and with subcellular resolution with PET and fluorescence, respectively. This reporter system is potentially nonimmunogenic and will therefore be useful in human studies. PSMA is a biomarker of prostate adenocarcinoma and ACUPA-Cy3-BF3 potential in radical prostatectomy is demonstrated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis*
  • Antigens, Surface / genetics
  • Carbocyanines / analysis*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Tracking / methods
  • Fluorescent Dyes / analysis*
  • Genes, Reporter*
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II / analysis*
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • Optical Imaging / methods
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics*


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Carbocyanines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • cyanine dye 3
  • FOLH1 protein, human
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II