Second-generation triple reporter for bioluminescence, micro-positron emission tomography, and fluorescence imaging

Aparna H. Kesarwala, Julie L. Prior, Jinwu Sun, Scott E. Harpstrite, Vijay Sharma, David Piwnica-Worms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Bioluminescence, positron emission tomography (PET), and fluorescence modalities are currently available for noninvasive imaging in vivo, each with its own merits. To exploit the combined strengths of each and facilitate multimodality imaging, we engineered a dual-reporter construct in which firefly luciferase (FLuc) and a 12-amino acid nonstructural linker were fused in frame to the N-terminus of a mutant herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (mNLS-SR39TK) kinetically enhanced for positron emission tomography (PET). Furthermore, a triple-reporter construct was developed in which monster green fluorescent protein (MGFP), a recently available enhanced fluorescent protein, was introduced into the fusion vector downstream of an internal ribosome entry site (IRES) to allow analysis by fluorescence microscopy or flow cytometry without compromising the specific activities of the upstream fusion components. FLuc bioluminescence was measured with a cooled charge-coupled device camera and mNLS-SR39TK activity by 9-[4-[18F]fluoro-3-(hydroxymethyl) butyl guanine (18F-FHBG) microPET or 3H-penciclovir net accumulation. Importantly, HeLa cells transiently transfected with the FLuc-mNLS-SR39TK-IRES-MGFP triple reporter retained the same specific activities of the FLucmNLS-SR39TK heteroenzyme and the individual unfused enzymes with no change in protein half-lives. The presence of the IRES-MGFP modestly decreased upstream heteroprotein expression. In living mice, somatic gene transfer of a ubiqurtin promoter-driven FLuc-mNLS-SR39TK-IRES-MGFP plasmid showed a > 1,000-fold increase in liver photon flux and a > 2-fold increase in liver retention of 18F-FHBG by microPET compared with mice treated with control plasmid. Multifocal hepatocellular fluorescence was readily observed by standard confocal microscopy. This second-generation triple reporter incorporating enhanced components enables bioluminescence, PET, and fluorescence imaging of cells and living animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-474
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Imaging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006


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