Demonstration of the Early Cardiac Bioavailability of a Non-Specific Cell-Targeted Peptide Using Radionuclide-Based Imaging In Vivo

The cardiac bioavailability of peptide drugs that inhibit harmful intracellular protein–protein interactions in cardiovascular diseases remains a challenging task in drug development. This study investigates whether a non-specific cell-targeted peptide drug is available in a timely manner at its intended biological destination, the heart, using a combined stepwise nuclear molecular imaging approach. An octapeptide (heart8P) was covalently coupled with the trans-activator of transcription (TAT) protein transduction domain residues 48–59 of human immunodeficiency virus-1 (TAT-heart8P) for efficient internalization into mammalian cells. The pharmacokinetics of TAT-heart8P were evaluated in dogs and rats. The cellular internalization of TAT-heart8P-Cy(5.5) was examined on cardiomyocytes. The real-time cardiac delivery of 68Ga-NODAGA-TAT-heart8P was tested in mice under physiological and pathological conditions. Pharmacokinetic studies of TAT-heart8P in dogs and rats revealed a fast blood clearance, high tissue distribution, and high extraction by the liver. TAT-heart-8P-Cy(5.5) was rapidly internalized in mouse and human cardiomyocytes. Correspondingly, organ uptake of hydrophilic 68Ga-NODAGA-TAT-heart8P occurred rapidly after injection with an initial cardiac bioavailability already 10 min post-injection. The saturable cardiac uptake was revailed by the pre-injection of the unlabeled compound. The cardiac uptake of 68Ga-NODAGA-TAT-heart8P did not change in a model of cell membrane toxicity. This study provides a sequential stepwise workflow to evaluate the cardiac delivery of a hydrophilic, non-specific cell-targeting peptide. 68Ga-NODAGA-TAT-heart8P showed rapid accumulation in the target tissue early after injection. The implementation of PET/CT radionuclide-based imaging methodology as a means to assess effective and temporal cardiac uptake represents a useful and critical application in drug development and pharmacological research and can be extended to the evaluation of comparable drug candidates.


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