Tetrazine-TCO Ligation: A Potential Simple Approach to Improve Tumor Uptake through Enhanced Blood Circulation

Mengzhe Wang, Hui Wang, Crystal Q Niu, Tao Zhang, Zhanhong Wu, Zibo Li
Bioconjugate Chemistry 2020 June 3
Targeted imaging via peptides has been extensively investigated for both diagnostic and therapeutic applications. However, peptides can be cleared out from the blood circulation quickly, leading to only moderate to low accumulation in regions of interest. Previously, 18F-sTCO-DiPhTz-RGDyK demonstrated relatively high blood retention with increased tumor uptake at the late time point (5.3 ± 0.4 and 8.9 ± 0.5 %ID/g tumor uptake at 1h p.i. and 4h p.i., respectively). In this study, we aim to develop a novel platform based on TCO/tetrazine ligation that could not only be used to label the peptides with F-18 for PET but also to lead to increased or persistent tumor uptake potentially due to enhanced blood circulation of the labeled peptides. We first constructed systems containing different combinations of TCOs/tetrazines and found that the tetrazine moiety played a more important role to facilitate the enhanced blood circulation compared with TCO moiety. Four clinically relevant peptides including NT20.3, RGD, BBN and exendin-4 were then evaluated and the increased tumor uptake at a late time point was demonstrated by the combination of 18F-sTCO-DiPhTz system to NT20.3, RGD, and exendin-4. The plasma binding components of the PET agents were investigated by electrophoresis and autoradiography and indicated that transferrin and hemopexin could be the major proteins in blood plasma for binding with 18F-sTCO-DiPhTz conjugates. In summary, we have discovered a TCO/tetrazine system that could not only be used for PET probe construction but also potentially improve the tumor uptake and retention of fast-clearing peptides. Although additional binding experiments are still needed for some of the constructs, the promising preliminary result suggested this strategy may be used to convert fast clearing bioligands into relatively long circulating agents with enhanced tumor uptake/retention for either imaging or therapy applications.

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