Cyclic decapeptide CGLIIQKNEC (CLT1) has been demonstrated to target fibronectin-fibrin complexes in the extracellular matrix of different tumors and tissue lesions. Although liver fibrosis is characterized by an increased amount of extracellular matrix consisting of fibril-forming collagens and matrix glycoconjugates such as fibronectin, we aimed to investigate the feasibility of detecting and characterizing liver fibrosis using CLT1 peptide-targeted nanoglobular contrast agent (Gd-P) with dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging in an experimental mouse model of liver fibrosis at 7 T.
Materials and Methods
Gd-P, control peptide KAREC conjugated nanoglobular contrast agent (Gd-CP), and control nontargeting nanoglobular contrast agent (Gd-C) were synthesized. Male adult C57BL/6N mice (22–25 g; N = 54) were prepared and were divided into fibrosis (n = 36) and normal (n = 18) groups. Liver fibrosis was induced in the fibrosis group through subcutaneous injection of 1:3 mixture of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) in olive oil at a dose of 4 μL/g of body weight twice a week for 8 weeks. Dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI was performed in all animals. Dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging was analyzed to yield postinjection ΔR1(t) maps for quantitative measurements. Histological analysis was also performed.
Differential enhancements were observed and characterized between the normal and fibrotic livers using Gd-P at 0.03 mmol/kg, when compared with nontargeted controls (Gd-CP and Gd-C). For Gd-P injection, both the peak and steady-state ΔR1 of the normal livers were significantly lower than those after 4 and 8 weeks of CCl4 dosing. Liver fibrogenesis with increased amount of fibronectin in the extracellular space in insulted livers were confirmed by histological observations.
These results indicated that dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging with CLT1 peptide-targeted nanoglobular contrast agent can detect and stage liver fibrosis by probing the accumulation of fibronectin in fibrotic livers.