The invention relates to compounds and methods for targeting radionuclide-based imaging agents to cells having receptors for a vitamin, or vitamin receptor binding derivative or analog thereof, by using such a vitamin as the targeting ligand for the imaging agent. The invention provides a compound of the formula
for use in such methods. In the compound, V is a vitamin that is a substrate for receptor-mediated transmembrane transport in vivo, or a vitamin receptor binding derivative or analog thereof, L is a divalent linker, R is a side chain of an amino acid, M is a cation of a radionuclide, n is 1 or 0, K is 1 or 0, and the compound can be in a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier therefor. The vitamin-based compounds can be used to target radionuclides to cells, such as a variety of tumor cell types, for use in diagnostic imaging of the targeted cells.