Herein we demonstrate for the first time that a fluorogenic probe can be used as an in vivo imaging agent for visualizing activities of membrane-tethered, membrane-type matrix metalloproteinases (MT-MMPs). An MT-MMP fluorogenic probe that consisted of an MT1-MMP (MMP-14) substrate and near-infrared (NIR) dye-quencher pair exhibited rapid, efficient boosts in fluorescence upon cleavage by MT1-MMP in tumor-bearing mice. In particular, unlike similar fluorogenic probes designed to target extracellular, soluble-type MMPs (EC-MMPs)-which can be cleared from the bloodstream after activation-the fluorescence signals activated by MT1-MMP enable clear visualization of MT1-MMP-positive tumors in animal models for up to 24 h. The results indicate that a simple form of a fluorogenic probe that is less effective in EC-MMP imaging is an effective probe for imaging MT-MMP activities in vivo. These findings can be widely applied to designing probes and to applications targeting various membrane-anchored proteases in vivo.
- activatable probe
- fluorogenic probe
- membrane-type matrix metalloproteinase
- optical imaging