The mechanisms underlying the efficient gene transfer by a large-volume and high-speed intravenous injection of naked plasmid DNA (pDNA), a so-called hydrodynamics-based procedure, remain unclear and require further investigation. In this report, we have investigated possible mechanisms for the intracellular transport of naked pDNA by this procedure.
Propidium iodide (PI), a fluorescent indicator for cell membrane integrity, and luciferase- or green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing pDNA were injected into mice by the hydrodynamics-based procedure.
PI was efficiently taken up by hepatocytes which appeared to be viable following the hydrodynamics-based procedure. Pre-expressed GFP in the cytosol was rapidly eliminated from the hepatocytes by a large-volume injection of saline. The profiles of plasma ALT and AST showed a steady decline with the highest values observed immediately after the hydrodynamics-based procedure. These results suggest that the hydrodynamics-based procedure produces a transient increase in the permeability of the cell membrane. The cellular uptake process appeared nonspecific, since simultaneous injection of an excess of empty vector did not affect the transgene expression. Sequential injections of a large volume of pDNA-free saline followed by naked pDNA in a normal volume revealed that the increase in membrane permeability was transient, with a return to normal conditions within 30 min. Transgene expression was observed in hepatocyte cultures isolated 10 min after pDNA delivery and in the liver as early as 10 min after luciferase-expressing RNA delivery, indicating that pDNA delivered immediately by the hydrodynamics-based procedure has the potential to produce successful transgene expression.
These findings suggest that the mechanism for the hydrodynamics-based gene transfer would involve in part the direct cytosolic delivery of pDNA through the cell membrane due to transiently increased permeability. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.