Amyloid plaques are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD) that develop in its earliest stages. Thus, non-invasive detection of these plaques would be invaluable for diagnosis and the development and monitoring of treatments, but this remains a challenge due to their small size. Here, we investigated the utility of manganese-enhanced MRI (MEMRI) for visualizing plaques in transgenic rodent models of AD across two species: 5xFAD mice and TgF344-AD rats. Animals were given subcutaneous injections of MnCl2 and imaged in vivo using a 9.4 T Bruker scanner. MnCl2 improved signal-to-noise ratio but was not necessary to detect plaques in high-resolution images. Plaques were visible in all transgenic animals and no wild-types, and quantitative susceptibility mapping showed that they were more paramagnetic than the surrounding tissue. This, combined with beta-amyloid and iron staining, indicate that plaque MR visibility in both animal models was driven by plaque size and iron load. Longitudinal relaxation rate mapping revealed increased manganese uptake in brain regions of high plaque burden in transgenic animals compared to their wild-type littermates. This was limited to the rhinencephalon in the TgF344-AD rats, while it was most significantly increased in the cortex of the 5xFAD mice. Alizarin Red staining suggests that manganese bound to plaques in 5xFAD mice but not in TgF344-AD rats. Multi-parametric MEMRI is a simple, viable method for detecting amyloid plaques in rodent models of AD. Manganese-induced signal enhancement can enable higher-resolution imaging, which is key to visualizing these small amyloid deposits. We also present the first in vivo evidence of manganese as a potential targeted contrast agent for imaging plaques in the 5xFAD model of AD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12419
Pages (from-to)12419
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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