In Vivo High Resolution Three-Dimensional Imaging of Antigen-Specific Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Trafficking to Tumors
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allows noninvasive and three-dimensional visualization of whole organisms over time, and, therefore, would be ideally suited to monitor cell trafficking in vivo. Until now, systemically injected cells had been difficult to visualize by MRI because of relatively inefficient labeling methods. We developed a novel, biocompatible, and physiologically inert nanoparticle (highly derivatized cross-linked iron oxide nanoparticle; CLIO-HD) for highly efficient intracellular labeling of a variety of cell types that now allows in vivo MRI tracking of systemically injected cells at near single-cell resolution. CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes labeled with CLIO-HD were detectable via MRI with a detection threshold of 2 cells/voxel in vitro and ∼3 cells/voxel in vivo in live mice. Using B16-OVA melanoma and CLIO-HD-labeled OVA-specific CD8+ T cells, we have demonstrated for the first time high resolution imaging of T-cell recruitment to intact tumors in vivo. We have revealed the extensive three-dimensional spatial heterogeneity of T-cell recruitment to target tumors and demonstrated a temporal regulation of T-cell recruitment within the tumor. Significantly, our data indicate that serial administrations of CD8+ T cells appear to home to different intratumoral locations, and may, therefore, provide a more effective treatment regimen than a single bolus administration. Together, these results demonstrate that CLIO-HD is uniquely suited for quantitative repetitive MRI of adoptively transferred cells and that this approach may be particularly useful for evaluating novel cell-based therapies in vivo.