In vitro characterization of [3H]VAT in cells, animal and human brain tissues for vesicular acetylcholine transporter

Qianwa Liang, Sumit Joshi, Hui Liu, Yanbo Yu, Haiyang Zhao, Tammie L.S. Benzinger, Joel S. Perlmutter, Zhude Tu

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Vesicular acetylcholine transporter plays a crucial role in the cholinergic system, and its alterations is implicated in several neurodegenerative disorders. We recently developed a PET imaging tracer [18F]VAT to target VAChT in vivo with high affinity and selectivity. Here we report in vitro characterization of [3H]VAT, a tritiated counterpart of [18F]VAT. Using human VAChT-rich cell membrane extracts, a saturated binding curve was obtained for [3H]VAT with Kd = 6.5 nM and Bmax = 22.89 pmol/mg protein. In the [3H]VAT competition-binding assay with a panel of CNS ligands, binding inhibition of [3H]VAT was observed using VAChT ligands, the Ki values ranged from 5.41 to 33.3 nM. No inhibition was detected using a panel of other CNS ligands. In vitro [3H]VAT autoradiography of rat brain sections showed strong signals in the striatum, moderate to high signals in vermis, thalamus, cortex, and hippocampus, and weak signals in cerebellum. Strong [3H]VAT ARG signals were also observed from striatal sections of normal nonhuman primates and human brains. Competitive ARG study with human striatal sections demonstrated strong ARG signals of [3H]VAT in caudate and putamen were blocked significantly by either VAChT ligand TZ659 or (−)-vesamicol, but not by the σ1 receptor ligand Yun-122. ARG study also indicated that signal in the striatal sections from PSP human brains was lower than normal human brains. These data provide solid evidence supporting [18F]VAT as a suitable PET radiotracer for quantitative assessment of VAChT levels in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Article number174556
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmacology
StatePublished - Nov 15 2021


  • Autoradiography
  • Binding assay
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy
  • Radioligand
  • Striatum
  • Vesicular acetylcholine transporter


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