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This preclinical study was designed to compare gadolinium (Gd) brain uptake after repeated injections of a macrocyclic Gd-based contrast agent (GBCA) (gadoterate meglumine) or 2 linear GBCAs (L-GBCAs) (gadobenate dimeglumine or gadodiamide) on a translational model of moderate renal impairment in rats.The study was carried out in subtotally nephrectomized rats. Animals received 4 intravenous injections per week of GBCA (gadoterate meglumine, gadobenate dimeglumine, or gadodiamide) for 5 weeks, resulting in a cumulative dose of 12 mmol/kg, followed by a 1-month injection-free period. T1 hyperintensity in the deep cerebellar nuclei (DCNs) was investigated, and brain structures were carefully dissected to determine elemental Gd, iron (Fe), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn) distribution by mass spectrometry. Urinary excretion of endogenous metals was also investigated soon after GBCA administration and several days later in order to assess a potential transmetalation phenomenon.Unlike gadoterate, repeated injections of L-GBCAs gadobenate and gadodiamide both induced T1 hyperintensity in the DCNs. Fine dissection of cerebral and cerebellar structures demonstrated very low levels or absence of Gd after repeated injections of gadoterate, in contrast to the two L-GBCAs, for which the highest total Gd concentration was demonstrated in the DCNs (Gd concentration in DCNs after 4.5 weeks of injection-free period: 27.1 ± 6.5 nmol/g for gadodiamide [P < 0.01 vs saline and P < 0.05 vs gadoterate]; 12.0 ± 2.6 nmol/g for gadobenate [P < 0.09 vs saline]; compared with 1.4 ± 0.2 nmol/g for gadoterate [ns vs saline]). The distribution of Gd concentration among the various brain structures dissected was also well correlated with the Fe distribution in these structures. No difference in endogenous metal levels in brain structures was observed. However, injection of gadobenate or gadodiamide resulted in an increase in urinary Zn excretion (urinary Zn concentrations: 57.9 ± 20.5 nmol/mL with gadobenate [P < 0.01 vs gadoterate and saline] and 221.6 ± 83.3 nmol/L with gadodiamide [P < 0.0001 vs all other treatments] vs 8.1 ± 2.3 nmol/L with saline and 10.6 ± 4.8 nmol/L with gadoterate]).In a model of renally impaired rats, only traces of gadoterate meglumine were detected in the brain with no T1 hyperintensity of the DCNs, whereas marked Gd retention was observed in almost all brain areas after injections of the L-GBCAs, gadobenate dimeglumine and gadodiamide. Brain structures with higher Gd uptake corresponded to those structures containing more Fe. Urinary Zn excretion was significantly increased after a single injection of L-GBCAs.