PEGylated and Non-PEGylated TCP-1 Probes for Imaging of Colorectal Cancer

Zhonglin Liu, Brian D. Gray, Christy Barber, Li Wan, Lars R. Furenlid, Rongguang Liang, Zheng Li, James M. Woolfenden, Koon Y. Pak, Diego R. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Previous studies indicate that 99mTc- and fluorescent-labeled c[Cys-Thr-Pro-Ser-Pro-Phe-Ser-His-Cys]OH (TCP-1) peptides were able to detect colorectal cancer (CRC) and tumor-associated vasculature. This study was designed to characterize the targeting properties of PEGylated and non-PEGylated TCP-1 peptides for CRC imaging. Procedures: Cell uptake of cyanine 7 (Cy7)-labeled TCP-1 probes (Cy7-PEG4-TCP-1 and Cy7-TCP-1) was investigated in three CRC cell lines (human, HCT116 and HT29; mouse, CT26). Xenograft and orthotopic CRC tumor models with HCT116 and CT26 cells were used to characterize biodistribution and CRC tumor-targeting properties of TCP-1 fluorescence and radioligand with and without PEGylation, [99mTc]Tc-HYNIC-PEG4-TCP-1 vs. [99mTc]Tc-HYNIC-TCP-1. Results: Fluorescence images showed that TCP-1 probes were distributed in the cytoplasm and nucleus of CRC cells. When CT26 cells were treated with unlabeled TCP-1 peptide prior to the cell incubation with Cy7-PEG4-TCP-1, cell fluorescent signals were significantly reduced relative to the cells without blockade. Relative to Cy7-TCP-1, superior brilliance and visibility of fluorescence was observed in the tumor with Cy7-PEG4-TCP-1 and maintained up to 18 h post-injection. [99mTc]Tc-HYNIC-PEG4-TCP-1 images in xenograft and orthotopic CRC models demonstrated that TCP-1 PEGylation preserved tumor-targeting capability of TCP-1, but its distribution (%ID/g) in the liver and intestine was higher than that of [99mTc]Tc-HYNIC-TCP-1 (1.51 ± 0.29 vs 0.53 ± 0.12, P < 0.01). Better tumor visualization by [99mTc]Tc-HYNIC-TCP-1 was observed in the orthotopic CRC model due to lower intestinal radioactivity. Conclusions: TCP-1-based probes undergo endocytosis and localize in the cytoplasm and nucleus of human and mouse CRC cells. Tumor detectability of fluorescent TCP-1 peptide with a PEG4 spacer is promising due to its enhanced tumor binding affinity and rapid clearance kinetics from nontumor tissues. Non-PEGylated [99mTc]Tc-HYNIC-TCP-1 exhibits lower nonspecific accumulation in the liver and gastrointestinal tract and might have better capability for detecting CRC lesions in clinical sites. TCP-1 may represent an innovative targeting molecule for detecting CRC noninvasively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-143
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Imaging and Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Fluorescence
  • Molecular imaging
  • TCP-1 peptide
  • Tc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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