Limited brain uptake of radioligands with otherwise optimal properties for imaging brain receptors can be improved by blocking the effect of P-glycoprotein (P-gp), an efflux pump at the blood-brain barrier. Using small animal positron emission tomography (PET), we investigated how P-gp and its blockade with Cyclosporin A (CsA) affect rodent brain uptake of [11C](R)-(-)-RWAY, a radioligand for brain 5-HT1A receptors.
Brain uptake of radioactivity was compared in control and CsA-treated rats as well as P-gp knockout and wild type mice. Parent radioligand and radiometabolite in plasma and brain samples were determined at 30 min after injection of radioligand. PET binding potential (BP) was calculated with a reference tissue model.
P-gp knockout mice had 2.5- and 2.8-fold greater brain uptake of [11C](R)-(-)-RWAY than wild type ones, measured by in vivo PET and ex vivo tissue sampling, respectively. Similarly, CsA increased rat brain uptake 4.9- and 5.3-fold, in vivo and ex vivo. In addition, CsA increased the plasma free fraction of [11C](R)-(-)-RWAY in rats by 2.7-fold. Although CsA increased brain uptake in wild type mice by 2.5-fold, it had no effect on plasma free fraction in knockout animals. Three radiometabolites of [11C](R)-(-)-RWAY were uniformly distributed in rat brain, suggesting they were inactive. CsA treatment increased brain uptake of [11C](R)-(-)-RWAY and only one of its radiometabolites. Regional rat brain BP increased 27–70% in the CsA-treated rats and the P-gp knockout mice.
[11C](R)-(-)-RWAY is a P-gp substrate in rat and mouse. The effects of CsA in rats are mediated by both P-gp blockade and displacement of the radiotracer from plasma proteins. Studies with wild type and knockout mice showed that CsA affected only P-gp in this species.