The Monocarboxylate transporter inhibitor Quercetin induces intracellular acidification in a mouse model of Glioblastoma Multiforme: in-vivo detection using magnetic resonance imaging

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© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. The response of tumor intracellular pH to a pharmacological challenge could help identify aggressive cancer. Chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) is an MRI contrast mechanism that is dependent on intracellular pH (pHi). pHi is important in the maintenance of normal cell function and is normally maintained within a narrow range by the activity of transporters located at the plasma membrane. In cancer, changes in pHi have been correlated with both cell proliferation and cell death. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid and monocarboxylate transporter (MCT) inhibitor. Since MCTs plays a significant role in maintaining pH balance in the tumor microenvironment, we hypothesized that systemically administered quercetin could selectively acidify brain tumors. The goals of the current study were to determine whether CEST MRI measurements sensitive to tumor pH could detect acidification after quercetin injection and to measure the magnitude of the pH change (ΔpH). Using a 9.4 T MRI, amine and amide concentration independent detection (AACID) CEST spectra were acquired in six mice approximately 15 ± 1 days after implanting 105 U87 human glioblastoma multiforme cells in the brain, before and after administration of quercetin (dose: 200 mg/kg) by intraperitoneal injection. Three additional mice were studied as controls and received only vehicle dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) injection. Repeated measures t-test was used to compare AACID changes in tumor and contralateral tissue regions of interest. Two hours after quercetin injection there was a significant increase in tumor AACID by 0.07 ± 0.03 corresponding to a 0.27 decrease in pHi, and no change in AACID in contralateral tissue. There was also a small average increase in AACID in tumors within the three mice injected with DMSO only. The use of the natural compound quercetin in combination with pH weighted MRI represents a unique approach to cancer detection that does not require injection of an imaging contrast agent.

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