Journal of Neural Transmission

, Volume 125, Issue 5, pp 847–867 | Cite as

In vivo PET imaging of neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease

  • Julien Lagarde
  • Marie Sarazin
  • Michel Bottlaender
Neurology and Preclinical Neurological Studies - Review Article


Increasing evidence suggests that neuroinflammation contributes to the pathophysiology of many neurodegenerative diseases, especially Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Molecular imaging by PET may be a useful tool to assess neuroinflammation in vivo, thus helping to decipher the complex role of inflammatory processes in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases and providing a potential means of monitoring the effect of new therapeutic approaches. For this objective, the main target of PET studies is the 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO), as it is overexpressed by activated microglia. In the present review, we describe the most widely used PET tracers targeting the TSPO, the methodological issues in tracer quantification and summarize the results obtained by TSPO PET imaging in AD, as well as in neurodegenerative disorders associated with AD, in psychiatric disorders and ageing. We also briefly describe alternative PET targets and imaging modalities to study neuroinflammation. Lastly, we question the meaning of PET imaging data in the context of a highly complex and multifaceted role of neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative diseases. This overview leads to the conclusion that PET imaging of neuroinflammation is a promising way of deciphering the enigma of the pathophysiology of AD and of monitoring the effect of new therapies.


Neuroinflammation Alzheimer’s disease PET imaging TSPO Microglia 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd partly supported a study conducted by the authors. During the last 2 years, M.S. has received speaker honorarium from Société Générale.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julien Lagarde
    • 1
  • Marie Sarazin
    • 1
  • Michel Bottlaender
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Unit of Neurology of Memory and Language, Centre de Psychiatrie et NeurosciencesINSERM UMR S894, Centre Hospitalier Sainte-Anne and Université Paris DescartesParisFrance
  2. 2.UNIACT, NeuroSpin, Institut d’Imagerie Biomédicale, Direction de la Recherche Fondamentale, Commissariat à l’Energie AtomiqueGif-sur-YvetteFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire Imagerie Moléculaire in Vivo, UMR 1023, Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, Institut d’Imagerie Biomédicale, Direction de la Recherche FondamentaleCommissariat à l’Energie AtomiqueOrsayFrance

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