Protein-based tumor molecular imaging probes. Amino Acids 2010
Molecular imaging is an emerging discipline which plays critical roles in diagnosis and therapeutics. It visualizes and quantifies markers that are aberrantly expressed during the disease origin and development. Protein molecules remain to be one major class of imaging probes, and the option has been widely diversified due to the recent advances in protein engineering techniques. Antibodies are part of the immunosystem which interact with target antigens with high specificity and affinity. They have long been investigated as imaging probes and were coupled with imaging motifs such as radioisotopes for that purpose. However, the relatively large size of antibodies leads to a half-life that is too long for common imaging purposes. Besides, it may also cause a poor tissue penetration rate and thus compromise some medical applications. It is under this context that various engineered protein probes, essentially antibody fragments, protein scaffolds, and natural ligands have been developed. Compared to intact antibodies, they possess more compact size, shorter clearance time, and better tumor penetration. One major challenge of using protein probes in molecular imaging is the affected biological activity resulted from random labeling. Site-specific modification, however, allows conjugation happening in a stoichiometric fashion with little perturbation of protein activity. The present review will discuss protein-based probes with focus on their application and related site-specific conjugation strategies in tumor imaging.