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[11C]phenytoin revisited: synthesis by [11C]CO carbonylation and first evaluation as a P-gp tracer in rats

Joost Verbeek1*, Jonas Eriksson1, Stina Syvänen2, Maaike Labots2, Elizabeth C M de Lange2, Rob A Voskuyl23, Martinus P J Mooijer1, Marissa Rongen1, Adriaan A Lammertsma1 and Albert D Windhorst1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nuclear Medicine & PET Research, Radionuclide Centre, VU University Medical Center, P.O. box 7057, Amsterdam 1081, HV, The Netherlands

2 Division of Pharmacology, LACDR, Leiden University, Leiden, 2300, RA, The Netherlands

3 Epilepsy Institutes of The Netherlands Foundation (SEIN), Heemstede, 2103, SW, The Netherlands

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EJNMMI Research 2012, 2:36  doi:10.1186/2191-219X-2-36

Published: 2 July 2012



At present, several positron emission tomography (PET) tracers are in use for imaging P-glycoprotein (P-gp) function in man. At baseline, substrate tracers such as R-[11C]verapamil display low brain concentrations with a distribution volume of around 1. [11C]phenytoin is supposed to be a weaker P-gp substrate, which may lead to higher brain concentrations at baseline. This could facilitate assessment of P-gp function when P-gp is upregulated. The purpose of this study was to synthesize [11C]phenytoin and to characterize its properties as a P-gp tracer.


[11C]CO was used to synthesize [11C]phenytoin by rhodium-mediated carbonylation. Metabolism and, using PET, brain pharmacokinetics of [11C]phenytoin were studied in rats. Effects of P-gp function on [11C]phenytoin uptake were assessed using predosing with tariquidar.


[11C]phenytoin was synthesized via [11C]CO in an overall decay-corrected yield of 22 ± 4%. At 45 min after administration, 19% and 83% of radioactivity represented intact [11C]phenytoin in the plasma and brain, respectively. Compared with baseline, tariquidar predosing resulted in a 45% increase in the cerebral distribution volume of [11C]phenytoin.


Using [11C]CO, the radiosynthesis of [11C]phenytoin could be improved. [11C]phenytoin appeared to be a rather weak P-gp substrate.

Phenytoin; PET; Tariquidar; Probenecid; [11C]CO; BBB; P-gp; [11C]CO2 purification