Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

Detection of Subclinical Arthritis in Mice by a Thrombin Receptor–Derived Imaging Agent

Published Web Location


Functional imaging of synovitis could improve both early detection of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and long-term outcomes. Given the intersection of inflammation with coagulation protease activation, this study was undertaken to examine coagulation protease activities in arthritic mice with a dual-fluorescence ratiometric activatable cell-penetrating peptide (RACPP) that has a linker, norleucine (Nle)-TPRSFL, with a cleavage site for thrombin.


K/BxN-transgenic mice with chronic arthritis and mice with day 1 passive serum-transfer arthritis were imaged in vivo for Cy5:Cy7 emission ratiometric fluorescence from proteolytic cleavage and activation of RACPPNleTPRSFL . Joint thickness in mice with serum-transfer arthritis was measured from days 0 to 10. The cleavage-evoked release of Cy5-tagged tissue-adhesive fragments enabled microscopic correlation with immunohistochemistry for inflammatory markers. Thrombin dependence of ratiometric fluorescence was tested by ex vivo application of RACPPNleTPRSFL and argatroban to cryosections obtained from mouse hind paws on day 1 of serum-transfer arthritis.


In chronic arthritis, RACPPNleTPRSFL fluorescence ratios of Cy5:Cy7 emission were significantly higher in diseased swollen ankles of K/BxN-transgenic mice than in normal mouse ankles. A high ratio of RACPPNleTPRSFL fluorescence in mouse ankles and toes on day 1 of serum-transfer arthritis correlated with subsequent joint swelling. Foci of high ratiometric fluorescence localized to inflammation, as demarcated by immune reactivity for citrullinated histones, macrophages, mast cells, and neutrophils, in soft tissue on day 1 of serum-transfer arthritis. Ex vivo application of RACPPNleTPRSFL to cryosections obtained from mice on day 1 of serum-transfer arthritis produced ratiometric fluorescence that was inhibited by argatroban.


RACPPNleTPRSFL activation detects established experimental arthritis, and the detection of inflammation by RACPPNleTPRSFL on day 1 of serum-transfer arthritis correlates with disease progression.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View