Aberrant crypt foci (ACF), the earliest precursor lesion of colorectal cancers (CRCs), are a good surrogate marker for CRC risk stratification and chemoprevention. However, the conventional ACF detection method with dye-spraying by magnifying colonoscopy is labor- A nd skill-intensive. We sought to identify rat and human ACF using a fluorescent imaging technique that targets a molecule specific for ACF. We found that glutathione S-transferase (GST) P1-1 was overexpressed in ACF tissues in a screening experiment. We then synthesized the fluorogenic probe, DNAT-Me, which is fluorescently quenched but is activated by GSTP1-1. A CRC cell line incubated with DNAT-Me showed strong fluorescence in the cytosol. Fluorescence intensities correlated significantly with GST activities in cancer cell lines. When we sprayed DNAT-Me onto colorectal mucosa excised from azoxymethane-treated rats and surgically resected from CRC patients, ACF with strong fluorescent signals were clearly observed. The ACF number determined by postoperative DNAT-Me imaging was almost identical to that determined by preoperative methylene blue staining. The signal-to-noise ratio for ACF in DNAT-Me images was significantly higher than that in methylene blue staining. Thus, we sensitively visualized ACF on rat and human colorectal mucosa by using a GST-activated fluorogenic probe without dye-spraying and magnifying colonoscopy.
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