PET radiotracers

A PET radiotracer (also known as PET tracer) is a positron-emitting radiopharmaceutical used in positron emission tomography. Each tracer consists of a positron-emitting isotope (radioactive tag) bound to an organic ligand (targeting agent). The ligand component of each tracer interacts with a protein target, resulting in a characteristic distribution of the tracer throughout the tissues.

For example, the preeminent PET radiotracer fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) is comprised of 18F isotope bound to 2-deoxy-2-glucose, an analog to glucose. The 2-deoxy-2-glucose ligand is a substrate for the hexokinase/glucokinase enzymes involved in early carbohydrate metabolism; thus, FDG is chemically linked to cellular metabolic activity 1. It serves as a particularly good tracer agent because it tends to stay "trapped" within metabolically active cells due to the absence of the hydroxide group ("deoxy-").

There is an increasing list of chemical compounds which are being used for PET imaging. A list of commonly used compounds includes:

  • acetate (11C)
  • choline (11C)
  • fludeoxyglucose (18F)
  • sodium fluoride (18F)
  • methionine (11C)
  • prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) (68Ga)
  • DOTATOC, DOTANOC, DOTATATE (68Ga)
  • Florbetaben, Florbetapir (18F)
  • rubidium (82Rb ) chloride
Share article

Article information

rID: 54346
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • PET tracers
  • positron emission tomography radiotracers

Support Radiopaedia and see fewer ads

Updating… Please wait.

 Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

 Thank you for updating your details.