Contrast‑enhanced ultrasound molecular imaging of activated platelets in the progression of atherosclerosis using microbubbles bearing the von Willebrand factor A1 domain

Jie Tian, Yahui Weng, Ruiying Sun, Ying Zhu, Jun Zhang, Hongyun Liu, Yani Liu
Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine2021
Platelet‑endothelial interactions have been linked to increased inflammatory activation and a prothrombotic state in atherosclerosis. The interaction between von Willebrand factor (vWF)‑A1 domain and platelet glycoprotein (GP) Ib/IX plays a significant role in mediating the adhesion of platelets to the injured endothelium. In the present study, contrast‑enhanced ultrasound (CEU) molecular imaging with microbubbles bearing the vWF‑A1 domain was performed to non‑invasively monitor activated platelets on the vascular endothelium in the procession of atherosclerosis. A targeted CEU contrast agent was prepared by attaching the vWF‑A1 domain to the shell of microbubbles (MbA1 ). Rat isotype control antibody was used to produce control (Mbctrl ) microbubbles. The binding of MbA1 and Mbctrl to activated platelets was assessed in in vitro flow chamber experiments. Apolipoprotein E (ApoE‑/‑ ) deficient mice were studied as a model of atherosclerosis. At 8, 16 and 32 weeks of age, CEU molecular imaging of the proximal aorta with MbA1 and Mbctrl was performed and the imaging signals from microbubbles were quantified. Atherosclerotic lesion severity and platelets on the endothelial surface were assessed by histology and immunohistochemistry. In in vitro flow chamber studies, attachment of MbA1 to activated platelets on culture dishes was significantly greater than that of Mbctrl across a range of shear stresses (P<0.05). The attachment of Mbctrl was sparse and not related to the aggregated platelets. As lesion development progressed in the ApoE‑/‑ mice, molecular imaging of activated platelets demonstrated selective signal enhancement of MbA1 (P<0.05 vs. Mbctrl ) at all ages. Selective signal enhancement from MbA1 increased from 8 to 32 weeks of age. Immunohistochemistry for GPIIb revealed the pres‑ ence of platelets on the endothelial cell surface in each group of ApoE‑/‑ mice and that the degree of platelet deposits was age‑dependent. The results of the present study indicated that non‑invasive CEU molecular imaging with targeted microbubbles bearing the vWF‑A1 domain could not only detect activated platelets on the vascular endothelium but also indicate lesion severity in atherosclerosis.

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