Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Use of polyethyleneimine polymer in cell culture as attachment factor and lipofection enhancer

Ajith R Vancha, Suman Govindaraju, Kishore VL Parsa, Madhuri Jasti, Maribel González-García and Rafael P Ballestero*

Author Affiliations

Departments of Chemistry and Biology, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX 78363, USA

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BMC Biotechnology 2004, 4:23  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-4-23

Published: 15 October 2004



Several cell lines and primary cultures benefit from the use of positively charged extracellular matrix proteins or polymers that enhance their ability to attach to culture plates. Polyethyleneimine is a positively charged polymer that has gained recent attention as a transfection reagent. A less known use of this cationic polymer as an attachment factor was explored with several cell lines.


Polyethyleneimine compared favorably to traditional attachment factors such as collagen and polylysine. PC-12 and HEK-293 cells plated on dishes coated with polyethyleneimine showed a homogeneous distribution of cells in the plate, demonstrating strong cell adhesion that survived washing procedures. The polymer could also be used to enhance the adherence and allow axonal outgrowth from zebrafish retinal explants. The effects of this coating agent on the transfection of loosely attaching cell lines were studied. Pre-coating with polyethyleneimine had the effect of enhancing the transfection yield in procedures using lipofection reagents.


Polyethyleneimine is an effective attachment factor for weakly anchoring cell lines and primary cells. Its use in lipofection protocols makes the procedures more reliable and increases the yield of expressed products with commonly used cell lines such as PC-12 and HEK-293 cells.