Chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) exploits the chemical exchange of labile protons of an endogenous or exogenous compound with water to image the former indirectly through the water signal. Z-spectra of the brain have traditionally been analyzed for two most common saturation phenomena: downfield amide proton transfer (APT) and upfield nuclear Overhauser enhancement (NOE). However, a great body of brain metabolites, many of interest in neurology and oncology, contributes to the downfield saturation in Z-spectra. The extraction of these “hidden” metabolites from Z-spectra requires careful design of CEST sequences and data processing models, which is only possible by first obtaining CEST signatures of the brain metabolites possessing labile protons. In this work, we measured exchange rates of all major-for-CEST brain metabolites in the physiological pH range at 37 °C. Analysis of their contributions to Z-spectra revealed that regardless of the main magnetic field strength and pH, five main contributors, i.e. myo-inositol, creatine, phosphocreatine, glutamate, and mobile (poly)peptides, account for ca. 90% of downfield CEST effect. The fundamental CEST parameters presented in this study can be exploited in the design of novel CEST sequences and Z-spectra processing models, which will enable simultaneous and quantitative CEST imaging of multiple metabolites: multicolor CEST.
Khlebnikov, V., van der Kemp, W. J. M., Hoogduin, H., Klomp, D. W. J., & Prompers, J. J. (2019). Analysis of chemical exchange saturation transfer contributions from brain metabolites to the Z-spectra at various field strengths and pH. Scientific Reports, 9(1), . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-37295-y