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This study aims to explore non-invasive imaging of atherosclerotic plaque through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) by using profilin-1 targeted magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (PF1-Cy5.5-DMSA-Fe3O4-NPs, denoted as PC-NPs) as multimodality molecular imaging probe in murine model of atherosclerosis.
PC-NPs were constructed by conjugating polyclonal profilin-1 antibody and NHS-Cy5.5 fluorescent dye to the surface of DMSA-Fe3O4-nanoparticles via condensation reaction. Murine atherosclerosis model was induced in apoE-/- mice by high fat and cholesterol diet (HFD) for 16 weeks. The plaque areas in aortic artery were detected with Oil Red O staining.Immunofluorescent staining and Western blot analysis were applied respectively to investigate profilin-1 expression. CCK-8 assay and transwell migration experiment were performed to detect vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) proliferation. In vivo MRI and NIRF imaging of atherosclerotic plaque were carried out before and 36 h after intravenous injection of PC-NPs.
Oil Red O staining showed that the plaque area was significantly increased in HFD group (the ratio of plaque area to whole artery area: 85.33% ± 0.05% in HFD group vs. 18.02%±0.03% in control group, p<0.05). Immunofluorescence staining revealed that profilin-1 protein was highly abundant within plaque in HFD group and co-localized with α-smooth muscle actin. Profilin-1 siRNA intervention could inhibit VSMCs proliferation and migration elicited by ox-LDL (p<0.05). In vivo MRI and NIRF imaging revealed that PC-NPs accumulated in atherosclerotic plaque of carotid artery. There was a good correlation between the signals of MRI and ex vivo fluorescence intensities of NIRF imaging in animals with PC-NPs injection (R2=0.8719).
PC-NPs is a promising dual modality imaging probe, which may improve molecular diagnosis of plaque characteristics and evaluation of pharmaceutical interventions for atherosclerosis.