Multinuclear Magnetic Resonance Characterization of Paramagnetic Contrast Agents: The Manifold Effects of Concentration and Counterions

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Proper fitting of the nuclear magnetic resonance dispersion (NMRD) profiles to the numerous factors governing nuclear relaxation in paramagnetic systems requires knowledge of some parameters usually obtained by other techniques. The rotational correlation time (τR) for example can be measured by carbon-13, hydrogen-2, or oxygen-17 NMR. Discrepancies between values reported in the literature might be attributed to the different concentration ranges used so far in these modalities. In the present work focussing on commercial nonspecific contrast agents, the influence of the solution composition (type and concentration of the complexes and of the counterions) has been examined with regard to the water proton relaxation enhancement and molecular dynamics.


The proton relaxation rate enhancement of Magnevist, Dotarem, Omniscan, and ProHance was measured in aqueous solution up to a concentration of 0.5 M. In the same concentration window, the rotational correlation times were obtained from the study of deuterium relaxation rates of the diamagnetic deuterated analogs (lanthanum complexes) of the gadolinium chelates.


Above 50 mM, the relaxation rate enhancement versus concentrations strongly deviates from linearity. Magnevist, a clinical formulation containing two meglumine counterions per molecule of paramagnetic complex, exhibits the largest concentration effect. A slowing down of the molecular dynamics accounts for this behavior as confirmed by the analysis of the rotational correlation times obtained by deuterium relaxometry. At low concentrations (≤ 50 mM), τR values obtained by proton NMRD analysis and by deuterium relaxation are in very good agreement.


This study shows that NMR analyses of small molecular weight complexes should be carried out on solutions containing no more than 50 mM to avoid the biaising effects of concentration. On the other hand, the benefitting relaxivity enhancement induced by highly concentrated solutions has to be taken into account in the context of bolus injection or vesicular entrapment.

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