Synthetic nucleic acids with antisense sequence complementary to mRNA, and their use for gene activity detection, have advanced our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of diseases in all disciplines of the biological sciences. For in vivo investigations, oligoDNA (ODN) or oligoRNA (ORN) can be modified with phosphorothioate (yielding sODN or sORN) to increase resistance to nucleases. Our hypothesis is that hybrids of sORN with target mRNA is more stable than sODN hybrids. We will compare a modular magnetic resonance (MR) probe comprising supraparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPION, a T2 agent) labeled with sODN or sORN. At present, intracerebroventricular (ICV) injection via cortical or lumbar puncture is one of only a few clinically approved methods to deliver drugs to the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) in humans. We have demonstrated that neural cells of live animals take up SPION-sODN with moderate efficiency and specificity in mRNA targeting in vivo by MR imaging: (1) ICV delivery in mice safely facilitates global distribution of SPION- sODN in mouse brains without lethal effect, (2) specific binding has been shown by in vivo priming of SPION- sODN to target mRNA by reverse transcription (RT), (3) results from electron microscopy (EM) show that iron oxide is located in the end some with a unique association to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and nuclei where mRNA is located, (4) changes in SPION-sODN retention above baseline (DR2*) are positively proportional to gene activities (linear regression = 1.0). Our goal is to evaluate the efficiency of SPION-sORN (and SPION-sODN) for targeting astroglia-specific glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) mRNA. Completion of the proposed work provides a platform for novel gene targeting probes as well as a powerful tool for early evaluation of astroglia activation in vivo. Therefore, less SPION-sORN than SPION-sODN is used for gene targeting and reduces accumulation of iron in the brain, leading to longitudinal assessment of neurologic events. We will:
Aim 1 : Compare in vivo dose and uptake of SPION-sODN or SPION-sORN in mice using ultra-high field MRI. Our hypothesis is that SPION retention (DR2*) will improve when SPION-sORN (SPION-Rgfap) is used to target GFAP mRNA. We will longitudinally compare DR2* of these two probes in the brains of live mice.
Aim 2 : Validate the correlation between MRI and histological assessments. Our hypothesis is that co- localization of dual-labeled probe (e.g., SPION-Rgfap-Cy3) can be specifically transfected to GFP-expressing glia of transgenic mice in vivo, and can be confirmed under fluorescent, optical and electron microscopes. We will collect brain samples after ICV probe delivery for this correlation study.
Aim 3 : Validate target binding using primer-free in situ RT to cDNA followed by target specific PCR. The hypothesis is that SPION-Rgfap will bind specifically to GFAP mRNA target in vivo and serve as a primer for in situ RT-PCR. We will collect brain samples, quantify the PCR results, and establish the correlation between MRI DR2* and mRNA copy numbers, using disease model systems.

Public Health Relevance

Glial activation plays an important role in the disease process. However, glial activation can only be detected in postmortem brain samples. The work outlined in this application investigates the mechanism of gene targeting for specific messenger RNA of glia activation in the central nervous system. We will apply a novel nucleic acid- based probe to investigate glial activation in live animals, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The work proposed here, with initial application in live animal models, has important implications for MRI-based analyses of neurophysiologic events at the genetic level. High-resolution MRI of intracellular RNA holds promise for translation to molecular biology in live subjects;to permit real-time longitudinal MRI in future applications for neuroscience and preclinical evaluation in medical research.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-SBIB-A (55))
Program Officer
Conroy, Richard
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Massachusetts General Hospital
United States
Zip Code
Liu, Christina H; Ren, Jiaqian; Liu, Philip K (2016) Amphetamine manipulates monoamine oxidase-A level and behavior using theranostic aptamers of transcription factors AP-1/NF-kB. J Biomed Sci 23:21
Liu, Philip K; Liu, Christina H (2016) Epigenetics of amphetamine-induced sensitization: HDAC5 expression and microRNA in neural remodeling. J Biomed Sci 23:90
Ren, Jiaqian; Chen, Yinching I; Mackey, Ashley M et al. (2016) Imaging rhodopsin degeneration in vivo in a new model of ocular ischemia in living mice. FASEB J 30:612-23
Ren, J; Chen, Y I; Liu, C H et al. (2016) Noninvasive tracking of gene transcript and neuroprotection after gene therapy. Gene Ther 23:1-9
Liu, Christina H; Ren, Jiaqian; Liu, Charng-Ming et al. (2014) Intracellular gene transcription factor protein-guided MRI by DNA aptamers in vivo. FASEB J 28:464-73
Liu, Christina H; Yang, Jinsheng; Ren, Jia Q et al. (2013) MRI reveals differential effects of amphetamine exposure on neuroglia in vivo. FASEB J 27:712-24
Kida, Kotaro; Minamishima, Shizuka; Wang, Huifang et al. (2012) Sodium sulfide prevents water diffusion abnormality in the brain and improves long term outcome after cardiac arrest in mice. Resuscitation 83:1292-7
Liu, Christina H; Ren, Jia Q; You, Zerong et al. (2012) Noninvasive detection of neural progenitor cells in living brains by MRI. FASEB J 26:1652-62
Papagiannaros, Aristarchos; Righi, Valeria; Day, George G et al. (2012) Imaging C-Fos Gene Expression in Burns Using Lipid Coated Spion Nanoparticles. Adv J Mol Imaging 2:31-37
Wu, Renhua; Liu, Charng-Ming; Liu, Philip K et al. (2012) Improved measurement of labile proton concentration-weighted chemical exchange rate (k(ws)) with experimental factor-compensated and T(1) -normalized quantitative chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) MRI. Contrast Media Mol Imaging 7:384-9

Showing the most recent 10 out of 11 publications