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Hum Gene Ther. 1999 Jan 1;10(1):25-36.

Binding and uptake of cationic lipid:pDNA complexes by polarized airway epithelial cells.

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  • 1Genzyme Corporation, Framingham, MA 01701-9322, USA.


To better understand the barriers associated with cationic lipid-mediated gene transfer to polarized epithelial cells, Fischer rat thyroid (FRT) cells and polarized normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells grown on filter supports at an air-liquid interface were used to study the binding and uptake of cationic lipid:plasmid DNA (pDNA) complexes. The efficiencies of binding and uptake of cationic lipid:pDNA complexes by these cell systems were monitored using fluorescence microscopy of fluorescently tagged lipid or pDNA probes. Fluorescent probe bound to the cell surface was differentiated from internalized probe by adding trypan blue, which quenched the fluorescence of bound but not internalized probes. For proliferating cells, binding and internalization of the cationic lipid:pDNA complexes were determined to be efficient. In contrast, little binding or internalization of the complexes was observed using polarized epithelial cells. However, after aspirating a small area of cells from the filter support, virtually all of the cells adjoining this newly formed edge bound and internalized the cationic lipid:pDNA complexes. To determine if their uptake in edge cells was related to the ability of the complexes to access the basolateral membranes of these cells, the binding and uptake of complexes was monitored in polarized NHBE cells that had been pretreated with EGTA or Ca2+-free media, strategies known to disrupt tight junctions. Cells treated in this manner bound and internalized cationic lipid:pDNA complexes efficiently and also expressed significant levels of transgene product. Control cells with intact tight junctions neither bound complexes nor expressed significant transgene product. These data confirm and extend earlier observations that the polarized apical membranes of airway epithelial cells are resistant to transfection by lipid:pDNA complexes. Further, in contrast to previous studies that have shown the entry step of complexes is not an important barrier for COS and HeLa cells, binding and entry of complexes in polarized NHBE cells appear to be rate limiting. These findings suggest that strategies designed to open the tight junctions of polarized epithelial cells may improve gene delivery to these cells for diseases such as cystic fibrosis (CF).

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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