Scientific reports

The accumulation mechanism of the hypoxia imaging probe "FMISO" by imaging mass spectrometry: possible involvement of low-molecular metabolites.

PMID 26582591


(18)F-fluoromisonidazole (FMISO) has been widely used as a hypoxia imaging probe for diagnostic positron emission tomography (PET). FMISO is believed to accumulate in hypoxic cells via covalent binding with macromolecules after reduction of its nitro group. However, its detailed accumulation mechanism remains unknown. Therefore, we investigated the chemical forms of FMISO and their distributions in tumours using imaging mass spectrometry (IMS), which visualises spatial distribution of chemical compositions based on molecular masses in tissue sections. Our radiochemical analysis revealed that most of the radioactivity in tumours existed as low-molecular-weight compounds with unknown chemical formulas, unlike observations made with conventional views, suggesting that the radioactivity distribution primarily reflected that of these unknown substances. The IMS analysis indicated that FMISO and its reductive metabolites were nonspecifically distributed in the tumour in patterns not corresponding to the radioactivity distribution. Our IMS search found an unknown low-molecular-weight metabolite whose distribution pattern corresponded to that of both the radioactivity and the hypoxia marker pimonidazole. This metabolite was identified as the glutathione conjugate of amino-FMISO. We showed that the glutathione conjugate of amino-FMISO is involved in FMISO accumulation in hypoxic tumour tissues, in addition to the conventional mechanism of FMISO covalent binding to macromolecules.