Genetic Encoding of Targeted Magnetic Resonance Imaging Contrast Agents for Tumor Imaging

Publication Type:

Journal Article


ACS Synthetic Biology (2020)



Tumor-selective contrast agents have the potential to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer using noninvasive imaging modalities such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Such contrast agents can consist of magnetic nanoparticles incorporating functionalities that respond to cues specific to tumor environments. Genetically engineering magnetotactic bacteria to display peptides has been investigated as a means to produce contrast agents that combine the robust image contrast effects of magnetosomes with the transgenic-targeting peptides displayed on their surface. This work reports the first use of magnetic nanoparticles that display genetically encoded pH low insertion peptide (pHLIP), a long peptide intended to enhance MRI contrast by targeting the extracellular acidity associated with the tumors. To demonstrate the modularity of this versatile platform to incorporate diverse targeting ligands by genetic engineering, we also incorporated the cyclic αv integrin-binding peptide iRGD into separate magnetosomes. Specifically, we investigate their potential for enhanced binding and tumor imaging both in vitro and in vivo. Our experiments indicate that these tailored magnetosomes retain their magnetic properties, making them well suited as T2 contrast agents, while exhibiting an increased binding compared to the binding in wild-type magnetosomes.