• chemical exchange;
  • spin locking;
  • CEST;
  • asymmetric population approximation;
  • MTR asymmetry


Chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) and spin-locking (SL) experiments were both able to probe the exchange process between protons of nonequivalent chemical environments. To compare the characteristics of the CEST and SL approaches in the study of chemical exchange effects, we performed CEST and SL experiments at varied pH and concentrated metabolite phantoms with exchangeable amide, amine, and hydroxyl protons at 9.4 T. Our results show that: (i) on-resonance SL is most sensitive to chemical exchanges in the intermediate-exchange regime and is able to detect hydroxyl and amine protons on a millimolar concentration scale. Off-resonance SL and CEST approaches are sensitive to slow-exchanging protons when an optimal SL or saturation pulse power matches the exchanging rate, respectively. (ii) Offset frequency-dependent SL and CEST spectra are very similar and can be explained well with an SL model recently developed by Trott and Palmer (J Magn Reson 2002;154:157–160). (iii) The exchange rate and population of metabolite protons can be determined from offset-dependent SL or CEST spectra or from on-resonance SL relaxation dispersion measurements. (iv) The asymmetry of the magnetization transfer ratio (MTRasym) is highly dependent on the choice of saturation pulse power. In the intermediate-exchange regime, MTRasym becomes complicated and should be interpreted with care. Magn Reson Med, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.