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Papers of the Week

Papers: 27 Aug 2022 - 2 Sep 2022

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 Aug 18

Eur J Med Chem


Development of a PET radioligand for α2δ-1 subunit of calcium channels for imaging neuropathic pain.


Zhou Y-P, Sun Y, Takahashi K, Belov V, Andrews N, Woolf CJ, Brugarolas P
Eur J Med Chem. 2022 Aug 18; 242:114688.
PMID: 36031695.


Neuropathic pain affects 7-10% of the adult population. Being able to accurately monitor biological changes underlying neuropathic pain will improve our understanding of neuropathic pain mechanisms and facilitate the development of novel therapeutics. Positron emission tomography (PET) is a noninvasive molecular imaging technique that can provide quantitative information of biochemical changes at the whole-body level by using radiolabeled ligands. One important biological change underlying the development of neuropathic pain is the overexpression of α2δ-1 subunit of voltage-dependent calcium channels (the target of gabapentin). Thus, we hypothesized that a radiolabeled form of gabapentin may allow imaging changes in α2δ-1 for monitoring the underlying pathophysiology of neuropathic pain. Here, we report the development of two F-labeled derivatives of gabapentin (trans-4-[F]fluorogabapentin and cis-4-[F]fluorogabapentin) and their evaluation in healthy rats and a rat model of neuropathic pain (spinal nerve ligation model). Both isomers were found to selectively bind to the α2δ-1 receptor with trans-4-[F]fluorogabapentin having higher affinity. Both tracers displayed around 1.5- to 2-fold increased uptake in injured nerves over the contralateral uninjured nerves when measured by gamma counting ex vivo. Although the small size of the nerves and the signal from surrounding muscle prevented visualizing these changes using PET, this work demonstrates that fluorinated derivatives of gabapentin retain binding to α2δ-1 and that their radiolabeled forms can be used to detect pathological changes in vitro and ex vivo. Furthermore, this work confirms that α2δ-1 is a promising target for imaging specific features of neuropathic pain.