Astrocytes as a predominant cellular site of 99mTc-HMPAO retention

Sabrina Zerarka, Luc Pellerin, Daniel Slosman, Pierre J. Magistretti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Technetium-99m-d,l-hexamethylpropylene amine oxime (99mTc-HMPAO) retention in the brain monitored by single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is currently used as a marker of cerebral blood flow. The purported mechanism by which 99mTc-HMPAO accumulates in the brain is through its intracellular conversion from a lipophilic form to more hydrophilic derivatives within the brain parenchyma. The issue of the contribution of different cell types on 99mTc-HMPAO retention was investigated in vitro by studying the accumulation of 99mTc-HMPAO in primary cultures of mouse cortical astrocytes and neurons. Results show that 99mTc-HMPAO retention predominates in astrocytes over neurons by a factor of ∼2.5 (0.26 ± 0.05 vs. 0.095 ± 0.042 fmol/mg protein after 120 minutes, respectively). Diethyl maleate (60 μmol/L), ethacrynic acid (1 mmol/L) and buthionine sulfoximine (1 mmol/L), 3 agents which significantly reduced glutathione levels also decreased 99mTc-HMPAO retention in both astrocytes (29%, 3%, and 46% of control, respectively) and neurons (69%, 11% and 63% of control). Decrease did not always correlate with glutathione levels, however, which suggests that other factors could be involved. The possibility that cell energy status determines 99mTc-HMPAO retention was also assessed. Agents that activate (glutamate, azide) or inhibit (cytochalasin B) glucose utilization in astrocytes, as measured by the 3H-2-deoxyglucose method, were without effect on 99mTc-HMPAO retention. In conclusion, the data presented indicate that astrocytes may constitute a prominent site of 99mTc-HMPAO retention and most likely contribute significantly to the SPECT signal. In addition, the data also suggest that specific alterations in glial cell metabolism could explain flow-independent changes in 99mTc-HMPAO retention in the brain as observed by SPECT in some pathologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-468
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


  • Astrocytes
  • Brain energy metabolism
  • Cerebral blood flow
  • Glutathione
  • Neurons
  • SPECT imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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