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Open Access Research

Comparison of nanoparticle-mediated transfection methods for DNA expression plasmids: efficiency and cytotoxicity

María Carolina Durán1, Saskia Willenbrock2, Annette Barchanski3, Jessika-M V Müller1, Arianna Maiolini2, Jan T Soller4, Stephan Barcikowski5, Ingo Nolte2, Karsten Feige1 and Hugo Murua Escobar2*

Author Affiliations

1 Equine Clinic, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Buenteweg 9, 30559 Hannover, Germany

2 Small Animal Clinic and Research Cluster of Excellence "REBIRTH", University of Veterinary Medicine, Buenteweg 9, 30559 Hannover, Germany

3 Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V., Hollerithallee 8, 30419 Hannover, Germany

4 Institute of Veterinary Medicine, University of Goettingen, Burckhardtweg 2, 37077 Goettingen, Germany

5 Institute of Technical Chemistry I, University of Duisburg-Essen and Center for Nanointegration Duisburg-Essen (CeNIDE), Universitaetsstr. 5-7, 45141 Essen, Germany

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Journal of Nanobiotechnology 2011, 9:47  doi:10.1186/1477-3155-9-47

Published: 20 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Reproducibly high transfection rates with low methodology-induced cytotoxic side effects are essential to attain the required effect on targeted cells when exogenous DNA is transfected. Different approaches and modifications such as the use of nanoparticles (NPs) are being evaluated to increase transfection efficiencies. Several studies have focused on the attained transfection efficiency after NP-mediated approaches. However, data comparing toxicity of these novel approaches with conventional methods is still rare.

Transfection efficiency and methodology-induced cytotoxicity were analysed after transfection with different NP-mediated and conventional approaches. Two eukaryotic DNA-expression-plasmids were used to transfect the mammalian cell line MTH53A applying six different transfection protocols: conventional transfection reagent (FuGENE HD, FHD), FHD in combination with two different sizes of stabilizer-free laser-generated AuNPs (PLAL-AuNPs_S1,_S2), FHD and commercially available AuNPs (Plano-AuNP), and two magnetic transfection protocols. 24 h post transfection efficiency of each protocol was analysed using fluorescence microscopy and GFP-based flow cytometry. Toxicity was assessed measuring cell proliferation and percentage of propidium iodide (PI%) positive cells. Expression of the respective recombinant proteins was evaluated by immunofluorescence.

Results

The addition of AuNPs to the transfection protocols significantly increased transfection efficiency in the pIRES-hrGFPII-eIL-12 transfections (FHD: 16%; AuNPs mean: 28%), whereas the magnet-assisted protocols did not increase efficiency. Ligand-free PLAL-AuNPs had no significant cytotoxic effect, while the ligand-stabilized Plano-AuNPs induced a significant increase in the PI% and lower cell proliferation. For pIRES-hrGFPII-rHMGB1 transfections significantly higher transfection efficiency was observed with PLAL-AuNPs (FHD: 31%; PLAL-AuNPs_S1: 46%; PLAL-AuNPs_S2: 50%), while the magnet-assisted transfection led to significantly lower efficiencies than the FHD protocol. With PLAL-AuNPs_S1 and _S2 the PI% was significantly higher, yet no consistent effect of these NPs on cell proliferation was observed. The magnet-assisted protocols were least effective, but did result in the lowest cytotoxic effect.

Conclusions

This study demonstrated that transfection efficiency of DNA-expression-plasmids was significantly improved by the addition of AuNPs. In some combinations the respective cytotoxicity was increased depending on the type of the applied AuNPs and the transfected DNA construct. Consequently, our results indicate that for routine use of these AuNPs the specific nanoparticle formulation and DNA construct combination has to be considered.