We have evaluated the use of [18F]holo-transferrin ([18F]Tf) and positron emission tomography (PET) to measure in vivo Tf receptor expression and recycling using the baboon liver as a model. [18F]Tf was intravenously injected in three baboons and dynamic PET was performed over the region containing liver and spleen. In two of the three baboons, [18F]albumin ([18F]Alb), labeled with the same technique, was administered 3 hours later. Time activity curves (TACs) were obtained from liver and spleen for both tracers. TACs for [18F]Tf over the liver were fit to a pharmacokinetic model including vascular radioactivity and an extravascular tissue compartment corresponding to transferrin uptake and release. [18F]Alb data provided an independent estimate of plasma volume. Kinetic analysis showed the presence of a tissue compartment for [18F]Tf that rapidly reaches equilibrium (half time 7-10 minutes). In this organ, the measured rates for Tf turnover obtained with quantitative PET are similar to previously published data using cell culture systems. A model for [18F]Tf in the spleen was not statistically improved by adding a tissue compartment. These data and the pharmacokinetic modeling provide in vivo evidence of a high flux equilibrium binding compartment in the liver, consistent with Tf internalization and recycling.
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