Quantitative three-dimensional analysis of the intracellular trafficking of plasmid DNA transfected by a nonviral gene delivery system using confocal laser scanning microscopy

Mol Ther. 2004 Mar;9(3):443-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2004.01.005.


Since endosomal escape and the nuclear delivery of plasmid DNA (pDNA) constitute major barriers for transgene expression, a quantitative evaluation of intracellular trafficking of pDNA would be highly desirable in terms of optimizing a nonviral gene delivery system. In the present study, a novel strategy is proposed for the quantification of rhodamine-labeled pDNA in endosomes/lysosomes, cytosol, and nucleus. Endosomes/lysosomes and nucleus were stained with LysoSensor DND-189 and Hoechst 33258, respectively, to distinguish them from the cytosol. The pixel areas of the clusters derived from the rhodamine were used as an index for the amount of pDNA. This approach was applied to the analysis of the intracellular trafficking of pDNA transfected by LipofectAMINE PLUS, stearylated octaarginine (STR-R8), and octaarginine (R8). In the case of R8, most of the pDNA was trapped by endosomes/lysosomes. STR-R8 exhibited endosomal escape followed by nuclear translocation in a time-dependent manner. LipofectAMINE PLUS was the most effective in rapidly delivering pDNA to the nucleus as well as the cytosol. These differences in the intracellular trafficking of pDNA correlated well with the transgene expression. Therefore, this method enables the quantitative analysis of the intracellular pharmacokinetics of pDNA and promises to provide useful information for optimizing nonviral gene delivery systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA / pharmacokinetics
  • Endocytosis
  • Endosomes / metabolism
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Statistical
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Oligopeptides / chemistry
  • Plasmids / metabolism*
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors
  • Transfection
  • Transgenes


  • Oligopeptides
  • octaarginine
  • DNA