Metabolic Evaluation of MYCN-Amplified Neuroblastoma by 4-[18F]FGln PET Imaging



This study aims to explore whether 4-(2S,4R)-[18F]fluoroglutamine (4-[18F]FGln) positron emission tomography (PET) imaging is helpful in identifying and monitoring MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma by enhanced glutamine metabolism.


Cell uptake studies and dynamic small-animal PET studies of 4-[18F]FGln and 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-D-glucose ([18F]FDG) were conducted in human MYCN-amplified (IMR-32 and SK-N-BE (2) cells) and non-MYCN-amplified (SH-SY5Y cell) neuroblastoma cells and animal models. Subsequently, short hairpin RNA (shRNA) knockdown of alanine-serine-cysteine transporter 2 (ASCT2/SLC1A5) in IMR-32 cells and xenografts were investigated in vitro and in vivo. Western blot (WB), real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and immunofluorescence (IF) assays were used to measure the prevalence of ASCT2, Ki-67, and c-Caspase 3, respectively.


IMR-32 and SK-N-BE (2) cells showed high glutamine uptake in vitro (31.6 ± 1.7 and 21.6 ± 6.6 %ID/100 μg). In the in vivo study, 4-[18F]FGln was localized in IMR-32, SK-N-BE (2), and SH-SY5Y tumors with a high uptake (6.6 ± 0.3, 5.6 ± 0.2, and 3.7 ± 0.1 %ID/g). The maximum uptake (tumor-to-muscle, T/M) of the IMR-32 and SK-N-BE (2) tumors (3.71 and 2.63) was significantly higher than that of SH-SY5Y (1.54) tumors (P < 0.001, P < 0.001). The maximum uptake of 4-[18F]FGln in IMR-32 and SK-N-BE (2) tumors was 2.3-fold and 2.1-fold higher than that of [18F]FDG, respectively. Furthermore, in the in vitro and in vivo studies, the maximum uptake of 4-[18F]FGln in shASCT2-IMR-32 cells and tumors was 2.1-fold and 2.5-fold lower than that of the shControl-IMR-32. No significant difference in [18F]FDG uptake was found between shASCT2-IMR-32 and shControl-IMR-32 cells and tumors.


4-[18F]FGln PET can provide a valuable clinical tool in the assessment of metabolic glutamine uptake in MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma. ASCT2-targeted therapy may provide a supplementary method in MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma treatment.

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All authors thank the Institutional Technology Service Center of Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica for the technical support.


This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation (91859106, 81771890), the “Personalized Medicines—Molecular Signature-based Drug Discovery and Development,” Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA12020108), and One Hundred Talent Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Author information




CL and RH supervised the process of the study and performed the manuscript writing. HS, ZH, and CW performed the xenograft mice study and PET imaging. JG and LS are responsible for the radiolabeling of 4-[18F]FGln and [18F]FDG. CL and SH participated in western blot, real-time PCR work and IF. LL, CL, and LS are responsible for the data analysis. HW as scientific director has coordinated and approved the work. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Ruimin Huang or Sheng Liang or Hui Wang.

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Li, C., Huang, S., Guo, J. et al. Metabolic Evaluation of MYCN-Amplified Neuroblastoma by 4-[18F]FGln PET Imaging. Mol Imaging Biol 21, 1117–1126 (2019).

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Key Words

  • Glutamine
  • PET
  • MYCN
  • ASCT2
  • Neuroblastoma