Investigational New Drugs

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 595–601 | Cite as

The Monocarboxylate transporter inhibitor Quercetin induces intracellular acidification in a mouse model of Glioblastoma Multiforme: in-vivo detection using magnetic resonance imaging

  • Mohammed Albatany
  • Susan Meakin
  • Robert BarthaEmail author


The response of tumor intracellular pH to a pharmacological challenge could help identify aggressive cancer. Chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) is an MRI contrast mechanism that is dependent on intracellular pH (pHi). pHi is important in the maintenance of normal cell function and is normally maintained within a narrow range by the activity of transporters located at the plasma membrane. In cancer, changes in pHi have been correlated with both cell proliferation and cell death. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid and monocarboxylate transporter (MCT) inhibitor. Since MCTs plays a significant role in maintaining pH balance in the tumor microenvironment, we hypothesized that systemically administered quercetin could selectively acidify brain tumors. The goals of the current study were to determine whether CEST MRI measurements sensitive to tumor pH could detect acidification after quercetin injection and to measure the magnitude of the pH change (ΔpH). Using a 9.4 T MRI, amine and amide concentration independent detection (AACID) CEST spectra were acquired in six mice approximately 15 ± 1 days after implanting 105 U87 human glioblastoma multiforme cells in the brain, before and after administration of quercetin (dose: 200 mg/kg) by intraperitoneal injection. Three additional mice were studied as controls and received only vehicle dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) injection. Repeated measures t-test was used to compare AACID changes in tumor and contralateral tissue regions of interest. Two hours after quercetin injection there was a significant increase in tumor AACID by 0.07 ± 0.03 corresponding to a 0.27 decrease in pHi, and no change in AACID in contralateral tissue. There was also a small average increase in AACID in tumors within the three mice injected with DMSO only. The use of the natural compound quercetin in combination with pH weighted MRI represents a unique approach to cancer detection that does not require injection of an imaging contrast agent.


Brain cancer Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) Apoptosis pH Quercetin MRI CEST 



glioblastoma multiforme


intracellular pH


extracellular pH


phosphate buffered saline


chemical exchange saturation transfer


monocarboxylate transporter


Dimethyl sulfoxide




asymmetric magnetization transfer ratio


magnetization transfer


amine and amide concentration-independent detection


fast spin-echo


water saturation shift referencing


region of interest



Funding for this study was provided by the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research (OICR) Smarter Imaging Program and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). MRI facilities were supported by Brain Canada and the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (BrainsCAN). Thanks to Misan University-Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Iraq.


This study was funded by the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research (OICR) Smarter Imaging Program (grant number 00807).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable national and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping, Robarts Research InstituteThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Medical BiophysicsThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  3. 3.Department of BiochemistryThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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