Magnitude of [ 11C]PK11195 binding is related to severity of motor deficits in a rabbit model of cerebral palsy induced by intrauterine endotoxin exposure

Sujatha Kannan, Fadoua Saadani-Makki, Bindu Balakrishnan, Pulak Chakraborty, James Janisse, Xin Lu, Otto Muzik, Roberto Romero, Diane C. Chugani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Intrauterine inflammation is known to be a risk factor for the development of periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and cerebral palsy. In recent years, activated microglial cells have been implicated in the pathogenesis of PVL and in the development of white matter injury. Clinical studies have shown the increased presence of activated microglial cells diffusely throughout the white matter in brains of patients with PVL. In vitro studies have reported that activated microglial cells induce oligodendrocyte damage and white matter injury by release of inflammatory cytokines, reactive nitrogen and oxygen species and the production of excitotoxic metabolites. PK11195 [1-(2-chlorophenyl)-N-methyl- N-(1-methylpropyl)-3-isoquinoline carboxamide] is a ligand that is selective for the 18-kDa translocator protein expressed on the outer mitochondrial membrane of activated microglia and macrophages. When labeled with carbon-11, [ 11C]PK11195 can effectively be used as a ligand in positron emission tomography (PET) studies for the detection of activated microglial cells in various neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative conditions. In this study, we hypothesized that the magnitude of [ 11C]-(R)-PK11195 uptake in the newborn rabbit brain, as measured using a small-animal PET scanner, would match the severity of motor deficits resulting from intrauterine inflammation-induced perinatal brain injury. Pregnant New Zealand white rabbits were intrauterinely injected with endotoxin or saline at 28 days of gestation. Kits were born spontaneously at 31 days and underwent neurobehavioral testing and PET imaging following intravenous injection of the tracer [ 11C]-(R)-PK11195 on the day of birth. The neurobehavioral scores were compared with the change in [ 11C]PK11195 uptake over the time of scanning, for each of the kits. Upon analysis using receiver operating characteristic curves, an optimal combined sensitivity and specificity for detecting abnormal neurobehavioral scores suggestive of cerebral palsy in the neonatal rabbit was noted for a positive change in [ 11C]PK11195 uptake in the brain over time on PET imaging (sensitivity of 100% and area under the curve of >0.82 for all parameters tested). The strongest agreements were noted between a positive uptake slope-indicating increased [ 11C]PK11195 uptake over time-and worsening scores for measures of locomotion (indicated by hindlimb movement, forelimb movement, circular motion and straight-line motion; Cohen's κ >0.75 for each) and feeding (indicated by ability to suck and swallow and turn the head during feeding; Cohen's κ >0.85 for each). This was also associated with increased numbers of activated microglia (mean ratio ± SD of activated to total microglia: 0.96 ± 0.16 in the endotoxin group vs. 0.13 ± 0.08 in controls; p < 0.001) in the internal capsule and corona radiata. Our findings indicate that the magnitude of [ 11C]PK11195 binding measured in vivo by PET imaging matches the severity of motor deficits in the neonatal rabbit. Molecular imaging of ongoing neuroinflammation in the neonatal period may be helpful as a screening biomarker for detecting patients at risk of developing cerebral palsy due to a perinatal insult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-240
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebral palsy
  • Maternal inflammation
  • Microglia
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Positron emission tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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