Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography Imaging Using Formyl Peptide Receptor 1 Ligand Can Diagnose Aortic Aneurysms in a Mouse Model

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Alexander H. Shannon
  • Mahendra D. Chordia
  • Michael D. Spinosa
  • Gang Su
  • Zachary Ladd
  • Dongfeng Pan
  • Gilbert R. Upchurch
  • Ashish K. Sharma

External Institution(s)

  • University of Virginia
  • University of Florida


Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-247
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatusPublished - Jul 2020


Background: Our previous studies showed that neutrophil infiltration and activation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). However, there is a lack of noninvasive, inflammatory cell-specific molecular imaging methods to provide early diagnosis of AAA formation. Formyl peptide receptor 1 (FPR1) is rapidly upregulated on neutrophils during inflammation. Therefore, it is hypothesized that the use of cinnamoyl-F-(D)L-F-(D)L-F-K (cFLFLF), a PEGylated peptide ligand that binds FPR1 on activated neutrophils, would permit accurate and noninvasive diagnosis of AAA via single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging. Materials and methods: Male C57BL/6 (wild-type) mice were treated with topical elastase (0.4 U/mL type 1 porcine pancreatic elastase) or heat-inactivated elastase (control), and aortic diameter was measured by video micrometry. Comparative histology was performed on Day 14 to assess neutrophil infiltration in aortic tissue. We performed near-infrared fluorescence imaging using c-FLFLF-Cy7 probe on Days 7 and 14 postelastase treatment and measured fluorescence intensity ex vivo in excised aortic tissue. A separate group of animals were injected with 99mTc-c-FLFLF 2 h before SPECT imaging on Day 14 using a SPECT/computed tomography/positron emission tomography trimodal scanner. Coexpression of neutrophils with c-FLFLF was also performed on aortic tissue by immunostaining on Day 14. Results: Aortic diameter was significantly increased in the elastase group compared with controls on Days 7 and 14. Simultaneously, a marked increase in neutrophil infiltration and elastin degradation as well as decrease in smooth muscle integrity were observed in aortic tissue after elastase treatment compared with controls. Moreover, a significant increase in fluorescence intensity of c-FLFLF-Cy7 imaging probe was also observed in elastase-treated mice on Day 7 (approximately twofold increase) and Day 14 (approximately 2.5-fold increase) compared with respective controls. SPECT imaging demonstrated a multifold increase in signal intensity for 99mTc-cFLFLF radiolabel probe in mice with AAA compared with controls on Day 14. Immunostaining of aortic tissue with c-FLFLF-Cy5 demonstrated a marked increase in coexpression with neutrophils in AAA compared with controls. Conclusions: cFLFLF, a novel FPR1 ligand, enables quantifiable, noninvasive diagnosis and progression of AAAs. Clinical application of this inflammatory, cell-specific molecular probe using SPECT imaging may permit early diagnosis of AAA formation, enabling targeted therapeutic interventions and preventing impending aortic rupture.

    Research areas

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms, Aortic inflammation, Formyl peptide receptor, SPECT scans, Vascular imaging

Citation formats



Shannon, AH, Chordia, MD, Spinosa, MD, Su, G, Ladd, Z, Pan, D, Upchurch, GR & Sharma, AK 2020, 'Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography Imaging Using Formyl Peptide Receptor 1 Ligand Can Diagnose Aortic Aneurysms in a Mouse Model', Journal of Surgical Research, vol. 251, pp. 239-247.