Molecular Imaging of the Chemokine Receptor CXCR4 after Acute Myocardial Infarction

James T. Thackeray, Thorsten Derlin, Arash Haghikia, L. Christian Napp, Yong Wang, Tobias L. Ross, Andreas Schäfer, Jochen Tillmanns, Hans J. Wester, Kai C. Wollert, Johann Bauersachs, Frank M. Bengel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Objectives An assay for molecular imaging of myocardial CXCR4 expression was evaluated, in order to obtain mechanistic insights noninvasively based on quantitative positron emission tomography (PET). Background The chemokine receptor CXCR4 has emerged as a therapeutic target after acute myocardial infarction (AMI), because of its role in inflammatory and progenitor cell recruitment. Methods PET with the specific CXCR4 ligand, gallium-68 (68Ga)-pentixafor, was performed in mice (n = 53) and compared with ex vivo autoradiography, immunohistochemistry, and left ventricular flow cytometry. In addition, 12 patients were imaged at 2 to 8 days after AMI. Results In mice, 68Ga-pentixafor identified regional CXCR4 upregulation in the infarct region, peaking at 3 days (infarct/remote [I/R] ratio 1.5 ± 0.2 at 3 days vs. 1.2 ± 0.3 at 7 days; p = 0.03), corresponding to a flow cytometry-based peak of CD45+ leukocytes and immunohistochemical detection of CD68+ macrophages and Ly6G+ granulocytes. Blockade with the CXCR4 antagonist AMD3100 abolished the signal. No specific uptake was found in sham-operated or control animals. Long-term treatment with oral enalapril attenuated the CXCR4 signal (I/R 1.2 ± 0.2 at 3 days and 1.0 ± 0.0.1 at 7 days; p = 0.01 vs. untreated). Patients showed variable degrees of CXCR4 upregulation in the infarct region. No single clinical parameter allowed for prediction of CXCR4 signal strength. At multivariate analysis, a combination of infarct size and time after reperfusion predicted the CXCR4 infarct signal (rmultiple = 0.73; p = 0.03). Infarct signal in the myocardium was paralleled by elevated pentixafor uptake in bone marrow (r = 0.61; p = 0.04), which highlighted systemic interactions. Conclusions Targeted PET imaging with 68Ga-pentixafor identifies the global and regional CXCR4 expression pattern in myocardium and systemic organs. CXCR4 upregulation after AMI coincides with inflammatory cell infiltration, but shows interindividual variability in patients. This may have implications for the response to CXCR4- or other inflammation-targeted therapy, and for subsequent ventricular remodeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1417-1426
Number of pages10
JournalJACC: Cardiovascular Imaging
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • CXCR4
  • inflammation
  • myocardial infarction
  • positron emission tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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