Polymer-based gene delivery with low cytotoxicity by a unique balance of side-chain termini

David Putnam, Christine A. Gentry, Daniel W. Pack, Robert Langer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

485 Scopus citations


Protein expression after delivery of plasmid DNA to the cell nucleus depends on the processes of transcription and translation. Cytotoxic gene-delivery systems may compromise these processes and limit protein expression. This situation is perhaps most prevalent in current nonviral polycationic gene-delivery systems in which the polycationic nature of the delivery system can lead to cytotoxicity. To approach the problem of creating nontoxic but effective gene-delivery systems, we hypothesized that by optimizing the balance between polymer cationic density with endosomal escape moieties, effective gene transfer with low cytotoxicity could be created. As a model system, we synthesized a series of polymers whose side-chain termini varied with respect to the balance of cationic centers and endosomal escape moieties. Specifically, by polymer-analogous amidation we conjugated imidazole groups to the ε-amines of polylysine in varying mole ratios (73.5 mol % imidazole, 82.5 mol % imidazole, and 86.5 mol % imidazole). The primary ε-amine terminus of polylysine served as a model for the cationic centers, whereas the imidazole groups served as a model for the endosomal escape moieties. These polymers condensed plasmid DNA into nanostructures <150 nm and possessed little cytotoxicity in vitro. Transfection efficiency, as measured by luciferase protein expression, increased with increasing imidazole content of the polymers in a nonlinear relationship. The polymer with the highest imidazole content (86.5 mol %) mediated the highest protein expression, with levels equal to those mediated by polyethylenimine, but with little to no cytotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1200-1205
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 30 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Polymer-based gene delivery with low cytotoxicity by a unique balance of side-chain termini'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this