Visualization of AMPA receptors in living human brain with positron emission tomography

Nat Med. 2020 Feb;26(2):281-288. doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0723-9. Epub 2020 Jan 20.


Although aberrations in the number and function of glutamate AMPA (α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid) receptors are thought to underlie neuropsychiatric disorders, no methods are currently available for visualizing AMPA receptors in the living human brain. Here we developed a positron emission tomography (PET) tracer for AMPA receptors. A derivative of 4-[2-(phenylsulfonylamino)ethylthio]-2,6-difluoro-phenoxyacetamide radiolabeled with 11C ([11C]K-2) showed specific binding to AMPA receptors. Our clinical trial with healthy human participants confirmed reversible binding of [11C]K-2 in the brain according to Logan graphical analysis (UMIN000020975; study design: non-randomized, single arm; primary outcome: dynamics and distribution volumes of [11C]K-2 in the brain; secondary outcome: adverse events of [11C]K-2 during the 4-10 d following dosing; this trial met prespecified endpoints). In an exploratory clinical study including patients with epilepsy, we detected increased [11C]K-2 uptake in the epileptogenic focus of patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, which was closely correlated with the local AMPA receptor protein distribution in surgical specimens from the same individuals (UMIN000025090; study design: non-randomized, single arm; primary outcome: correlation between [11C]K-2 uptake measured with PET before surgery and AMPA receptor protein density examined by biochemical study after surgery; secondary outcome: adverse events during the 7 d following PET scan; this trial met prespecified endpoints). Thus, [11C]K-2 is a potent PET tracer for AMPA receptors, potentially providing a tool to examine the involvement of AMPA receptors in neuropsychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Carbon Radioisotopes / chemistry*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phenoxyacetates / pharmacokinetics*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Protein Binding
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • 4-(2-(phenylsulfonylamino)ethylthio)-2,6-difluorophenoxyacetamide
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Carbon-11
  • Phenoxyacetates
  • Receptors, AMPA