In vivo pH mapping with omega plot-based quantitative chemical exchange saturation transfer MRI

Magn Reson Med. 2023 Jan;89(1):299-307. doi: 10.1002/mrm.29444. Epub 2022 Sep 11.


Purpose: Chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) MRI is promising for detecting dilute metabolites and microenvironment properties, which has been increasingly adopted in imaging disorders such as acute stroke and cancer. However, in vivo CEST MRI quantification remains challenging because routine asymmetry analysis (MTRasym ) or Lorentzian decoupling measures a combined effect of the labile proton concentration and its exchange rate. Therefore, our study aimed to quantify amide proton concentration and exchange rate independently in a cardiac arrest-induced global ischemia rat model.

Methods: The amide proton CEST (APT) effect was decoupled from tissue water, macromolecular magnetization transfer, nuclear Overhauser enhancement, guanidinium, and amine protons using the image downsampling expedited adaptive least-squares (IDEAL) fitting algorithm on Z-spectra obtained under multiple RF saturation power levels, before and after global ischemia. Omega plot analysis was applied to determine amide proton concentration and exchange rate simultaneously.

Results: Global ischemia induces a significant APT signal drop from intact tissue. Using the modified omega plot analysis, we found that the amide proton exchange rate decreased from 29.6 ± 5.6 to 12.1 ± 1.3 s-1 (P < 0.001), whereas the amide proton concentration showed little change (0.241 ± 0.035% vs. 0.202 ± 0.034%, P = 0.074) following global ischemia.

Conclusion: Our study determined the labile proton concentration and exchange rate underlying the in vivo APT MRI. The significant change in the exchange rate, but not the concentration of amide proton demonstrated that the pH effect dominates the APT contrast during tissue ischemia.

Keywords: APT; CEST; IDEAL fitting; amide proton transfer; chemical exchange saturation transfer; global ischemia; image downsampling expedited adaptive least-squares; omega plot.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ischemia
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Protons*
  • Rats


  • Protons
  • APT
  • Amides