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Artificial reporter gene providing MRI contrast based on proton exchange


Existing magnetic resonance reporter genes all rely on the presence of (super)paramagnetic substances and employ water relaxation to gain contrast. We designed a nonmetallic, biodegradable, lysine rich–protein (LRP) reporter, the prototype of a potential family of genetically engineered reporters expressing artificial proteins with frequency-selective contrast. This endogenous contrast, based on transfer of radiofrequency labeling from the reporter's amide protons to water protons, can be switched on and off.

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Figure 1: LRP as an MR-CEST reporter.
Figure 2: CEST imaging of poly-L-lysine (30 kDa) samples and LRP and control cell extracts.
Figure 3: In vivo imaging of LRP.


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We thank D.A. Kedziorek, V.P. Chacko and J. Zhang for experimental assistance. Supported by National Institutes of Health grants CA103175, NS045062, EB005252 and K01 EB006394.

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Correspondence to Jeff W M Bulte or Peter C M van Zijl.

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Gilad, A., McMahon, M., Walczak, P. et al. Artificial reporter gene providing MRI contrast based on proton exchange. Nat Biotechnol 25, 217–219 (2007).

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