Fluid phase endocytosis contributes to transfection of DNA by PEI-25.

Research paper by Hansjörg H Hufnagel, Parvez P Hakim, Aline A Lima, Florian F Hollfelder

Indexed on: 18 Jun '09Published on: 18 Jun '09Published in: Molecular Therapy


The understanding of internalization pathways of lipo- or polyplexes is crucial for engineering successful reagents for nonviral gene transfection. A known inhibitor of fluid phase endocytosis (FPE), rottlerin, was used to quantify the contribution of this pathway by flow cytometric and fluorescence assays. Rottlerin was shown to be a specific inhibitor of transfection by polyethylene imine (PEI-25)/DNA complexes, leading to a decrease in the amount of transfected HeLa and CHO-K1 cells and a decrease in the expression of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) reporter gene by up to 50%. Experiments using fluorescently labeled polyplexes result in a decrease of uptake by up to 40%. Additionally, rottlerin does not cross-inhibit clathrin- and caveolin-mediated endocytotic pathways of internalization, consistent with direct uptake inhibition by rottlerin. Nonspecific effects as a result of toxicity were ruled out by control experiments at concentrations where rottlerin inhibition was specific. These findings suggest that for CHO-K1 and HeLa cells, internalization of PEI-25/DNA complexes by FPE plays a decisive role in gene transfection. The establishment of an additional pathway that is independent of clathrin- and caveolin-mediated endocytotic uptake may have an impact on the design of future reagents of nonviral gene therapy and investigations of the uptake pathways and intracellular trafficking involved.