Intrinsic superoxide dismutase activity of MnO nanoparticles enhances the magnetic resonance imaging contrast
Superoxide radicals are associated with the development of many severe diseases, such as cancer. Under nonpathogenic conditions, the natural enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) regulates the intracellular superoxide concentrations, but nearly all tumor tissues show reduced SOD levels. Selective imaging in early progression stages remains a key requirement for efficient cancer diagnosis and treatment. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a noninvasive tool with high spatial resolution may offer advantages here, but MRI contrast agents exhibiting a redox-triggered change in the image contrast towards superoxide radicals have not been reported so far. Here we show that manganese oxide (MnO) nanoparticles (NPs) exhibit an intrinsic SOD-like activity, which is higher than that of the native Mn-dependent SOD. In addition, MnO NPs significantly enhance the MRI contrast when exposed to superoxide radicals, making them responsive MRI contrast agents for the treatment and imaging of cancer cells with reduced SOD levels.