In Vivo Mapping of Brain Benzodiazepine Receptor Changes by Positron Emission Tomography After Focal Ischemia in the Anesthetized Baboon

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Background and Purpose

Recent reports have shown an increase in specific binding (in vitro) of [3H]PK 11195 to peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptors in both experimental animals and humans, reflecting a glial/macrophagic reaction within and around focal ischemic insults. We have evaluated by positron emission tomography the time course of changes in brain uptake in vivo of 11C-labeled PK 11195 and flumazenil (an antagonist of central benzodiazepine receptors) as indirect and direct markers of neuronal loss, respectively, after focal cerebral ischemia.


Ten anesthetized baboons were submitted to sequential positron emission tomography studies between day 1 and day 91 after unilateral middle cerebral artery occlusion. The studies consisted of successive assessments, in the same positron emission tomography session, of [11C]PK 11195, [11C] flumazenil, cerebral blood flow, and oxygen consumption; late computed tomographic scans were obtained to map the approximate contours of infarction and to define a concentric peri-infarct area.


We found a significant time-dependent increase in [11C]PK 11195 uptake in the peri-infarcted area, maximum at 20 to 40 days after occlusion. In contrast, there was a time- and perrasion-independent significant decrease in [11C] flumazenil uptake in the infarcted area, stable from day 2 onward, and already present in one baboon at day 1. Challenge studies with saturating doses of cold ligands confirmed that these changes represented alterations in specific binding. [11C] Flumazenil uptake was not affected in hypometabolic (but apparently noninfarcted, ie, deafferented) cortical areas.


The delayed and apparently transient increases in [11C]PK 11195 specific uptake in vivo presumably represent glial/macrophage reaction; the marked depression in [11C] flumazenil specific binding, which appears selective for synaptic damage, is both precocious and sustained and thus may be better suited for the early assessment of ischemic damage in humans.

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