Ultrasound-Based Molecular Imaging of Tumors with PTPmu Biomarker-Targeted Nanobubble Contrast Agents

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Feb 17;22(4):1983. doi: 10.3390/ijms22041983.


Ultrasound imaging is a widely used, readily accessible and safe imaging modality. Molecularly-targeted microbubble- and nanobubble-based contrast agents used in conjunction with ultrasound imaging expand the utility of this modality by specifically targeting and detecting biomarkers associated with different pathologies including cancer. In this study, nanobubbles directed to a cancer biomarker derived from the Receptor Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase mu, PTPmu, were evaluated alongside non-targeted nanobubbles using contrast enhanced ultrasound both in vitro and in vivo in mice. In vitro resonant mass and clinical ultrasound measurements showed gas-core, lipid-shelled nanobubbles conjugated to either a PTPmu-directed peptide or a Scrambled control peptide were equivalent. Mice with heterotopic human tumors expressing the PTPmu-biomarker were injected with PTPmu-targeted or control nanobubbles and dynamic contrast-enhanced ultrasound was performed. Tumor enhancement was more rapid and greater with PTPmu-targeted nanobubbles compared to the non-targeted control nanobubbles. Peak tumor enhancement by the PTPmu-targeted nanobubbles occurred within five minutes of contrast injection and was more than 35% higher than the Scrambled nanobubble signal for the subsequent two minutes. At later time points, the signal in tumors remained higher with PTPmu-targeted nanobubbles demonstrating that PTPmu-targeted nanobubbles recognize tumors using molecular ultrasound imaging and may be useful for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Keywords: PTPmu; dynamic contrast enhanced ultrasound; molecular imaging; nanobubbles; receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase; time intensity curve; ultrasound contrast agents.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Contrast Media / chemistry*
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Mice, Nude
  • Molecular Imaging*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Receptor-Like Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases, Class 2 / metabolism*
  • Ultrasonography*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Contrast Media
  • Receptor-Like Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases, Class 2