Effects of Circular DNA Length on Transfection Efficiency by Electroporation into HeLa Cells

PLoS One. 2016 Dec 5;11(12):e0167537. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167537. eCollection 2016.


The ability to produce extremely small and circular supercoiled vectors has opened new territory for improving non-viral gene therapy vectors. In this work, we compared transfection of supercoiled DNA vectors ranging from 383 to 4,548 bp, each encoding shRNA against GFP under control of the H1 promoter. We assessed knockdown of GFP by electroporation into HeLa cells. All of our vectors entered cells in comparable numbers when electroporated with equal moles of DNA. Despite similar cell entry, we found length-dependent differences in how efficiently the vectors knocked down GFP. As vector length increased up to 1,869 bp, GFP knockdown efficiency per mole of transfected DNA increased. From 1,869 to 4,257 bp, GFP knockdown efficiency per mole was steady, then decreased with increasing vector length. In comparing GFP knockdown with equal masses of vectors, we found that the shorter vectors transfect more efficiently per nanogram of DNA transfected. Our results rule out cell entry and DNA mass as determining factors for gene knockdown efficiency via electroporation. The length-dependent effects we have uncovered are likely explained by differences in nuclear translocation or transcription. These data add an important step towards clinical applications of non-viral vector delivery.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA, Circular / genetics*
  • DNA, Superhelical / genetics
  • Electroporation / methods
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques / methods
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Transfection / methods


  • DNA, Circular
  • DNA, Superhelical
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins