Chemokines and chemokine receptors play an important role in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis by mediating the trafficking of inflammatory cells. Chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5) has major implications in promoting the development of plaques to advanced stage and related vulnerability. CCR5 antagonist has demonstrated the effective inhibition of atherosclerotic progression in mice, making it a potential biomarker for atherosclerosis management. To accurately determine CCR5 in vivo, we synthesized CCR5 targeted Comb nanoparticles through a modular design and construction strategy with control over the physiochemical properties and functionalization of CCR5 targeting peptide d-Ala-peptide T-amide (DAPTA-Comb). In vivo pharmacokinetic evaluation through 64Cu radiolabeling showed extended blood circulation of 64Cu-DAPTA-Combs conjugated with 10%, 25%, and 40% DAPTA. The different organ distribution profiles of the three nanoparticles demonstrated the effect of DAPTA on not only physicochemical properties but also targeting efficiency. In vivo positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) imaging in an apolipoprotein E knockout mouse atherosclerosis model (ApoE-/-) showed that the three 64Cu-DAPTA-Combs could sensitively and specifically detect CCR5 along the progression of atherosclerotic lesions. In an ApoE-encoding adenoviral vector (AAV) induced plaque regression ApoE-/- mouse model, decreased monocyte recruitment, CD68+ macrophages, CCR5 expression, and plaque size were all associated with reduced PET signals, which not only further confirmed the targeting efficiency of 64Cu-DAPTA-Combs but also highlighted the potential of these targeted nanoparticles for atherosclerosis imaging. Moreover, the up-regulation of CCR5 and colocalization with CD68+ macrophages in the necrotic core of ex vivo human plaque specimens warrant further investigation for atherosclerosis prognosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1386-1396
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • CCR5
  • atherosclerosis
  • macrophage
  • nanoparticle
  • positron emission tomography


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