Tissue-resident macrophages are complementary to proinflammatory macrophages to promote the progression of atherosclerosis. The noninvasive detection of their presence and dynamic variation will be important to the understanding of their role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. The goal of this study was to develop a targeted PET radiotracer for imaging CD163-positive (CD1631) macrophages in multiple mouse atherosclerosis models and assess the potential of CD163 as a biomarker for atherosclerosis in humans. Methods: CD163-binding peptide was identified using phage display and conjugated with a NODAGA chelator for 64Cu radiolabeling ([64Cu]Cu-ICT-01). CD163-overexpressing U87 cells were used to measure the binding affinity of [64Cu]Cu-ICT-01. Biodistribution studies were performed on wild-type C57BL/6 mice at multiple time points after tail vein injection. The sensitivity and specificity of [64Cu]Cu-ICT-01 in imaging CD1631 macrophages upregulated on the surface of atherosclerotic plaques were assessed inmultiple mouse atherosclerosis models. Immunostaining, flow cytometry, and single-cell RNA sequencing were performed to characterize the expression of CD163 on tissue-resident macrophages. Human carotid atherosclerotic plaques were used to measure the expression of CD1631 resident macrophages and test the binding specificity of [64Cu]Cu-ICT-01. Results: [64Cu]Cu-ICT-01 showed high binding affinity to U87 cells. The biodistribution study showed rapid blood and renal clearance with low retention in all major organs at 1, 2, and 4 h after injection. In an ApoE-/- mouse model, [64Cu]Cu-ICT-01 demonstrated sensitive and specific detection of CD1631 macrophages and capability for tracking the progression of atherosclerotic lesions; these findings were further confirmed in Ldlr-/- and PCSK9 mouse models. Immunostaining showed elevated expression of CD1631 macrophages across the plaques. Flow cytometry and single-cell RNA sequencing confirmed the specific expression of CD163 on tissue-resident macrophages. Human tissue characterization demonstrated high expression of CD1631 macrophages on atherosclerotic lesions, and ex vivo autoradiography revealed specific binding of [64Cu]Cu-ICT-01 to human CD163. Conclusion: This work reported the development of a PET radiotracer binding CD1631 macrophages. The elevated expression of CD1631 residentmacrophages on human plaques indicated the potential of CD163 as a biomarker for vulnerable plaques. The sensitivity and specificity of [64Cu]Cu-ICT-01 in imaging CD1631 macrophages warrant further investigation in translational settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-780
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2024


  • CD163
  • PET
  • atherosclerosis
  • resident macrophages
  • targeting


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