Theranostics 2012; 2(9):840-849. doi:10.7150/thno.4385

Research Paper

Confocal Fluorescence Imaging Enables Noninvasive Quantitative Assessment of Host Cell Populations In Vivo Following Photodynamic Therapy

Soumya Mitra, Oleg Mironov, Thomas H. Foster

Department of Imaging Sciences, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


We report the use of optical imaging strategies to noninvasively examine photosensitizer distribution and physiological and host responses to 2-[1-hexyloxyethyl]-2 devinyl pyropheophorbide-a (HPPH)-mediated photodynamic therapy (PDT) of EMT6 tumors established in the ears of BALB/c mice. 24 h following intravenous (IV) administration of 1 μmol kg-1 HPPH, wide-field fluorescence imaging reveals tumor selectivity with an approximately 2-3-fold differential between tumor and adjacent normal tissue. Confocal microscopy demonstrates a relatively homogeneous intratumor HPPH distribution. Labeling of host cells using fluorophore-conjugated antibodies allowed the visualization of Gr1+/CD11b+ leukocytes and major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II)+ cells in vivo. Imaging of the treated site at different time-points following irradiation shows significant and rapid increases in Gr1+ cells in response to therapy. The maximum accumulation of Gr1+ cells is found at 24 h post-irradiation, followed by a decrease at the 48 h time-point. Using IV-injected FITC-conjugated dextran as a fluorescent perfusion marker, we imaged tissue perfusion at different times post-irradiation and found that the reduced Gr1+ cell density at 48 h correlated strongly with functional damage to the vasculature as reported via decreased perfusion status. Dual color confocal imaging experiments demonstrates that about 90% of the anti-Gr1 cell population co-localized with anti-CD11b labeling, thus indicating that majority of the Gr1-labeled cells were neutrophils. At 24 h post-PDT, an approximately 2-fold increase in MHC-II+ cells relative to untreated control is also observed. Co-localization analysis reveals an increase in the fraction of Gr1+ cells expressing MHC-II, suggesting that HPPH-PDT is stimulating neutrophils to express an antigen-presenting phenotype.

Keywords: Photodynamic therapy, HPPH, In vivo imaging, Intratumor drug distribution, Confocal fluorescence microscopy, Immune cell imaging.

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How to cite this article:
Mitra S, Mironov O, Foster TH. Confocal Fluorescence Imaging Enables Noninvasive Quantitative Assessment of Host Cell Populations In Vivo Following Photodynamic Therapy. Theranostics 2012; 2(9):840-849. doi:10.7150/thno.4385. Available from