Positron emission tomography (PET) is a useful tool to assess and visualize neurotransmissions in vivo. In this study, we performed repeated PET scans with [11C]PE2I, a tracer of the dopamine transporter, to evaluate the alteration of the expression of dopamine (DA) transmission component after a fetal mesencephalic transplantation. The fetal mesencephalic cells were transplanted into the striatum of unilateral 6-OHDA-lesioned rats. PET scans with [11C]PE2I were performed to evaluate the DA transporter before and 2 and 4 weeks after the transplantation. Rotation behavior tests, in vitro autoradiography, measurements of DA contents in the striatum by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunohistological examinations were performed at the same time points and examined for their relationship to changes in the dopamine transporter. The number of ipsilateral rotations induced by methamphetamine injections decreased. DA contents in the striatum measured with HPLC significantly increased. In the PET study, the binding potential of [11C]PE2I increased at 4 weeks. The results of the in vitro autoradiography study corresponded with those of the PET study. The degrees of the change in the binding potentials correlated with those of the numbers of rotations in the behavioral study and the DA contents in the striatum. In the histological examination, TH-positive cells with axons were observed at 2 and 4 weeks after the transplantation. As the dopamine transporter exists only in the axon terminal of DA neurons, these results suggested that PET measurements of [11C]PE2I binding indicated not only survival, but maturity and functioning of the transplanted cells. Repeated PET measurements of DA transporters are a useful tool in assessing the effectiveness of neural transplantations.
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