Gadolinium chelates with octadentate ligands are widely used as contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), with macrocyclic ligands based on DO3A being preferred for the high kinetic inertness of their Gd chelates. A major challenge in the design of new bifunctional MRI probes is the need to control the rotational motion of the chelate, which greatly affects its relaxivity. In this work we explored facile alkylation of a secondary amine in macrocyclic DO3A-like ligands to create a short, achiral linkage to limit the undesired internal motion of chelates within larger molecular constructs. The acetate moiety on the trans nitrogen was also replaced with either a bidentate (ethoxyacetate, L1 or methyl picolinate, L2) or bulky monodentate (methyl phosphonate, L3) donor arm to give octa- or heptadentate ligands, respectively. The resultant Gd(III) complexes were all monohydrated (q = 1) and exhibited water residency times that spanned 2 orders of magnitude (tauM = 2190 +/- 170, 3500 +/- 90, and 12.7 +/- 3.8 ns at 37 degrees C for GdL1, GdL2, and GdL3, respectively). Alkylation of the secondary amine with a noncoordinating biphenyl moiety resulted in coordinatively saturated q = 0 complexes of octadentate ligands L1 and L2. Relaxivities were limited by slow water exchange and/or lack of water coligand. All complexes showed decreased inertness compared to [Gd(DO3A)] despite higher ligand denticity, and inertness was further decreased upon N-alkylation. These results demonstrate that high kinetic inertness and in vivo safety of Gd chelates with macrocyclic ligands should not be generalized.