UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


Detection of Aspergillus fumigatus pulmonary fungal infections in mice with (99m)Tc-labeled MORF oligomers targeting ribosomal RNA

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Radiology, Division of Nuclear Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Animals; Aspergillus fumigatus; Base Sequence; Lung; Lung Diseases, Fungal; Male; Mice; Mice, Inbred BALB C; Morpholinos; Oligonucleotide Probes; Organotechnetium Compounds; Positron-Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography; RNA, Fungal; RNA, Ribosomal, 28S; Species Specificity; Spores, Fungal


Bacterial Infections and Mycoses | Biochemistry | Diagnosis | Fungi | Nucleic Acids, Nucleotides, and Nucleosides | Radiology


PURPOSE: Invasive aspergillosis is a major cause of infectious morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised patients. The fungus Aspergillus fumigatus (A. fumigatus) is the primary causative agent of invasive aspergillosis. However, A. fumigatus infections remain difficult to diagnose particularly in the early stages due to the lack of a rapid, sensitive and specific diagnostic approach. In this study, we investigated (99m)Tc labeled MORF oligomers targeting fungal ribosomal RNA (rRNA) for the imaging detection of fungal infections.

PROCEDURES: Three phosphorodiamidate morpholino (MORF) oligomer (a DNA analogue) probes were designed: AGEN, complementary to a sequence of the fungal 28S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) of Aspergillus, as a genus-specific probe; AFUM, complementary to the 28S rRNA sequence of A. fumigatus, as a fungus species-specific probe; and cMORF, irrelevant to all fungal species, as a control probe. The probes were conjugated with Alexa Fluor 633 carboxylic acid succinimidyl ester (AF633) for fluorescence imaging or with NHS-mercaptoacetyl triglycine (NHS-MAG3) for nuclear imaging with (99m)Tc and then evaluated in vitro and in vivo.

RESULTS: The specific binding of AGEN and AFUM to fungal total RNA was confirmed by dot blot hybridization while specific binding of AGEN and AFUM in fixed and live A. fumigatus was demonstrated by both fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis and accumulation in live cells. SPECT imaging of BALB/c mice with pulmonary A. fumigatus infections and administered (99m)Tc labeled AGEN and AFUM showed immediate and obvious accumulation in the infected lungs, while no significant accumulation of the control (99m)Tc-cMORF in the infected lung was observed. Compared to non-infected mice, with sacrifice at 1h, the accumulation of (99m)Tc-AGEN and (99m)Tc-AFUM in the lungs of mice infected with A. fumigatus was 2 and 2.7 fold higher respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: In vivo targeting fungal ribosomal RNA with (99m)Tc labeled MORF probes AGEN and AFUM may be useful for A. fumigatus infection imaging and may provide a new strategy for the noninvasive diagnosis of invasive aspergillosis and other fungal infections.

DOI of Published Version



Nucl Med Biol. 2013 Jan;40(1):89-96. doi: 10.1016/j.nucmedbio.2012.10.001.Link to article on publisher's site

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Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Nuclear medicine and biology

PubMed ID