Investigation of cross-species translatability of pharmacological MRI in awake nonhuman primate - a buprenorphine challenge study

Stephanie Seah, Abu Bakar Ali Asad, Richard Baumgartner, Dai Feng, Donald S Williams, Elaine Manigbas, John D Beaver, Torsten Reese, Brian Henry, Jeffrey L Evelhoch, Chih-Liang Chin
PloS One 2014, 9 (10): e110432

BACKGROUND: Pharmacological MRI (phMRI) is a neuroimaging technique where drug-induced hemodynamic responses can represent a pharmacodynamic biomarker to delineate underlying biological consequences of drug actions. In most preclinical studies, animals are anesthetized during image acquisition to minimize movement. However, it has been demonstrated anesthesia could attenuate basal neuronal activity, which can confound interpretation of drug-induced brain activation patterns. Significant efforts have been made to establish awake imaging in rodents and nonhuman primates (NHP). Whilst various platforms have been developed for imaging awake NHP, comparison and validation of phMRI data as translational biomarkers across species remain to be explored.

METHODOLOGY: We have established an awake NHP imaging model that encompasses comprehensive acclimation procedures with a dedicated animal restrainer. Using a cerebral blood volume (CBV)-based phMRI approach, we have determined differential responses of brain activation elicited by the systemic administration of buprenorphine (0.03 mg/kg i.v.), a partial µ-opioid receptor agonist, in the same animal under awake and anesthetized conditions. Additionally, region-of-interest analyses were performed to determine regional drug-induced CBV time-course data and corresponding area-under-curve (AUC) values from brain areas with high density of µ-opioid receptors.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In awake NHPs, group-level analyses revealed buprenorphine significantly activated brain regions including, thalamus, striatum, frontal and cingulate cortices (paired t-test, versus saline vehicle, p<0.05, n = 4). This observation is strikingly consistent with µ-opioid receptor distribution depicted by [6-O-[(11)C]methyl]buprenorphine ([(11)C]BPN) positron emission tomography imaging study in baboons. Furthermore, our findings are consistent with previous buprenorphine phMRI studies in humans and conscious rats which collectively demonstrate the cross-species translatability of awake imaging. Conversely, no significant change in activated brain regions was found in the same animals imaged under the anesthetized condition.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data highlight the utility and importance of awake NHP imaging as a translational imaging biomarker for drug research.

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