Dependence of PEI and PAMAM gene delivery on clathrin-and caveolin-dependent trafficking pathways

Mark E. Hwang, Rahul K. Keswani, Daniel W. Pack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Purpose Non-viral gene delivery vehicles such as polyethylenimine and polyamidoamine dendrimer effectively condense plasmid DNA, facilitate endocytosis, and deliver nucleic acid cargo to the nucleus in vitro. Better understanding of intracellular trafficking mechanisms involved in polymeric gene delivery is a prerequisite to clinical application. This study investigates the role of clathrin and caveolin endocytic pathways in cellular uptake and subsequent vector processing. Methods We formed 25-kD polyethylenimine (PEI) and generation 4 (G4) polyamidoamine (PAMAM) polyplexes atN/P 10 and evaluated internalization pathways and gene delivery in HeLa cells. Clathrin- and caveolin-dependent endocytosis inhibitorswere used at varying concentrations to elucidate the roles of these important pathways. Results PEI and PAMAM polyplexes were internalized by both pathways. However, the amount of polyplex internalized poorly correlated with transgene expression. While the caveolindependent pathway generally led to effective gene delivery with both polymers, complete inhibition of the clathrin-dependent pathway was also deleterious to transfection with PEI polyplexes. Inhibition of one endocytic pathway may lead to an overall increase in uptake via unaffected pathways, suggesting the existence of compensatory endocytic mechanisms. Conclusions The well-studied clathrin- and caveolin-dependent endocytosis pathways are not necessarily independent, and perturbing one mechanism of trafficking influences the larger trafficking network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2051-2059
Number of pages9
JournalPharmaceutical Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014.


  • Caveolin
  • Clathrin
  • Polymer gene delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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