DOI: 10.1007/s00259-018-4076-2Pages: 1934-1944

Imaging of chemokine receptor CXCR4 expression in culprit and nonculprit coronary atherosclerotic plaque using motion-corrected [68Ga]pentixafor PET/CT

1. Hannover Medical School, Department of Nuclear Medicine

2. Hannover Medical School, Department of Cardiology and Angiology

3. Hannover Medical School, Department of Radiation Protection and Medical Physics

4. Technical University of Munich, Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry

5. Scintomics GmbH

Correspondence to:
Thorsten Derlin
Tel: +49 (0) 511 532 2577




The chemokine receptor CXCR4 is a promising target for molecular imaging of CXCR4+ cell types, e.g. inflammatory cells, in cardiovascular diseases. We speculated that a specific CXCR4 ligand, [68Ga]pentixafor, along with novel techniques for motion correction, would facilitate the in vivo characterization of CXCR4 expression in small culprit and nonculprit coronary atherosclerotic lesions after acute myocardial infarction by motion-corrected targeted PET/CT.


CXCR4 expression was analysed ex vivo in separately obtained arterial wall specimens. [68Ga]Pentixafor PET/CT was performed in 37 patients after stent-based reperfusion for a first acute ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction. List-mode PET data were reconstructed to five different datasets using cardiac and/or respiratory gating. Guided by CT for localization, the PET signals of culprit and various groups of nonculprit coronary lesions were analysed and compared.


Ex vivo, CXCR4 was upregulated in atherosclerotic lesions, and mainly colocalized with CD68+ inflammatory cells. In vivo, elevated CXCR4 expression was detected in culprit and nonculprit lesions, and the strongest CXCR4 PET signal (median SUVmax 1.96; interquartile range, IQR, 1.55–2.31) was observed in culprit coronary artery lesions. Stented nonculprit lesions (median SUVmax 1.45, IQR 1.23–1.88; P = 0.048) and hot spots in naive remote coronary segments (median SUVmax 1.34, IQR 1.23–1.74; P = 0.0005) showed significantly lower levels of CXCR4 expression. Dual cardiac/respiratory gating provided the strongest CXCR4 PET signal and the highest lesion detectability.


We demonstrated the basic feasibility of motion-corrected targeted PET/CT imaging of CXCR4 expression in coronary artery lesions, which was triggered by vessel wall inflammation but also by stent-induced injury. This novel methodology may serve as a platform for future diagnostic and therapeutic clinical studies targeting the biology of coronary atherosclerotic plaque.

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  • Accepted: Jun 19, 2018
  • Online: Jul 3, 2018

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