Background: The α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor increasingly has been implicated in normal brain physiology, as well as in neuropsychiatric disorders. The highly cortical distribution of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor suggests a role in cognition. Methods: We expanded the first-in-human PET imaging of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor with [18F]ASEM from 5 to 21 healthy nonsmoking volunteers and added a feasibility study in 6 male patients with schizophrenia. Study aims included: (1) confirmation of test-retest reproducibility of [18F]ASEM binding, (2) demonstration of specificity by competition with DMXB-A, an α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial agonist, (3) estimation of [18F]ASEM binding potentials and α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor density in vivo in humans, and (4) demonstrating the feasibility of studying α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor as a target for schizophrenia. Results: Test-retest PET confirmed reproducibility (>90%) (variability ≤7%) of [18F]ASEM volume of distribution (VT) estimates in healthy volunteers. Repeated sessions of PET in 5 healthy subjects included baseline and effect of inhibition after oral administration of 150 mg DMXB-A. From reduction of binding potentials, we estimated the dose-dependent occupancy of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor by DMXB-A at 17% to 49% for plasma concentrations at 60 to 200 nM DMXB-A. In agreement with evidence postmortem, α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor density averaged 0.67 to 0.82 nM and inhibitor affinity constant averaged 170 to 385 nM. Median VT in a feasibility study of 6 patients with schizophrenia was lower than in healthy volunteers in cingulate cortex, frontal cortex, and hippocampus (P = 0.02, corrected for multiple comparions, Mann-Whitney test). Conclusions: The current results confirm the reproducibility of [18F]ASEM VT estimates and the specificity of the tracer for α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. Preliminary findings from our feasibility study of [18F]ASEM binding in patients with schizophrenia are suggestive and provide guidance for future studies with more subjects.
- Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
- PET imaging