Systemic delivery of DNA or siRNA mediated by linear polyethylenimine (L-PEI) does not induce an inflammatory response

Pharm Res. 2008 Dec;25(12):2972-82. doi: 10.1007/s11095-008-9693-1. Epub 2008 Aug 16.


Purpose: The success of nucleic acid therapies depends upon delivery vehicle's ability to selectively and efficiently deliver therapeutic nucleic acids to target organ with minimal toxicity. The cationic polymer polyethylenimine (PEI) has been widely used for nucleic acid delivery due to its versatility and efficiency. In particular, the last generation of linear PEI (L-PEI) is being more efficient in vivo than the first generation of branched PEI. This led to several clinical trials including phase II bladder cancer therapy and human immunodeficiency virus immunotherapy. When moving towards to the clinic, it is crucial to identify potential side-effects induced by the delivery vehicle.

Materials and methods: For this purpose we have analyzed the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines [tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interferon (IFN)-gamma, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-12/IL-23, IFN-beta and IL-1beta] and hepatic enzyme levels (alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, lactate dehydrogenase and alkaline phosphatase) in the blood serum of mice after systemic injection of DNA or siRNAs delivered with L-PEI.

Results: Our data show no major production of pro-inflammatory cytokines or hepatic enzymes after injection of DNA or oligonucleotides active for RNA interference (siRNAs or sticky siRNAs) complexed with L-PEI. Only a slight induction of IFN-gamma was measured after DNA delivery, which is probably induced by the CpG mediated response.

Conclusion: Taken together our data highlight that linear polyethylenimine is a delivery reagent of choice for nucleic acid therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood
  • Animals
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • DNA / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Gene Transfer Techniques / adverse effects*
  • Inflammation / chemically induced*
  • Mice
  • Polyethyleneimine / administration & dosage*
  • Polyethyleneimine / toxicity
  • RNA, Small Interfering / administration & dosage*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / toxicity


  • Cytokines
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Polyethyleneimine
  • DNA
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Alkaline Phosphatase