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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Effects of size and topology of DNA molecules on intracellular delivery with non-viral gene carriers

Charlie Yu Ming Hsu1 and Hasan Uludağ123*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2G6, Canada

2 Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2G6, Canada

3 Faculty of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2G6, Canada

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BMC Biotechnology 2008, 8:23  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-8-23

Published: 29 February 2008



Efforts to improve the efficiency of non-viral gene delivery require a better understanding of delivery kinetics of DNA molecules into clinically relevant cells. Towards this goal, three DNA molecules were employed to investigate the effects of DNA properties on cellular delivery: a circular plasmid DNA (c-DNA), a linearized plasmid DNA (l-DNA) formulated by single-site digestion of c-DNA, and smaller linear gene cassette generated by PCR (pcr-DNA). Four non-viral gene carriers were investigated for DNA delivery: polyethyleneimine (PEI), poly-L-Lysine (PLL), palmitic acid-grafted PLL (PLL-PA), and Lipofectamine-2000™. Particle formation, binding and dissociation characteristics, and DNA uptake by rat bone marrow stromal cells were investigated.


For individual carriers, there was no discernible difference in the morphology of particles formed as a result of carrier complexation with different DNA molecules. With PEI and PLL carriers, no difference was observed in the binding interaction, dissociation characteristics, and DNA uptake among the three DNA molecules. The presence of serum in cell culture media did not significantly affect the DNA delivery by the polymeric carriers, unlike other lipophilic carriers. Using PEI as the carrier, c-DNA was more effective for transgene expression as compared to its linear equivalent (l-DNA) by using the reporter gene for Enhanced Green Fluorescent Protein. pcr-DNA was the least effective despite being delivered into the cells to the same extent.


We conclude that the nature of gene carriers was the primary determinant of cellular delivery of DNA molecules, and circular form of the DNA was more effectively processed for transgene expression.