A family of His-rich peptides has been shown to complex DNA and efficiently deliver these nucleic acids into eukaryotic cells. Therefore, these nanoscale complexes have potential applications in gene therapy. Here, we review a number of spectroscopic and biophysical investigations aimed at characterizing the supramolecular interactions of the peptides with the nucleic acids and when overcoming the membrane barriers of the cell. Furthermore, solid-state NMR distance measurements for the first time reveal close interatomic distances between the amino acid side chains and the DNA phosphates within the transfection complex. A recent study indicates that the peptides are also potent transfectants of siRNAs and they could thereby be of potential interest for gene silencing therapies using these compounds. Copyright © 2010 European Peptide Society and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.