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Gene Ther. 1999 Apr;6(4):585-94.

Dynamic changes in the characteristics of cationic lipidic vectors after exposure to mouse serum: implications for intravenous lipofection.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine 15261, USA.


Intravenous gene delivery via cationic lipidic vectors gives systemic gene expression particularly in the lung. In order to understand the mechanism of intravenous lipofection, a systematic study was performed to investigate the interactions of lipidic vectors with mouse serum emphasizing how serum affects the biophysical and biological properties of vectors of different lipid compositions. Results from this study showed that lipidic vectors underwent dynamic changes in their characteristics after exposure to serum. Addition of lipidic vectors into serum resulted in an immediate aggregation of vectors. Prolonged incubation of lipidic vectors with serum led to vector disintegration as shown in turbidity study, sucrose-gradient centrifugation analysis and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) study. Vector disintegration was associated with DNA release and degradation as shown in EtBr intercalation assay and DNA digestion study. Serum-induced disintegration of vectors is a general phenomenon for all cationic lipidic vectors tested in this study. Yet, vectors of different lipid compositions vary greatly in the rate of disintegration. There is an inverse correlation between the disintegration rate of lipidic vectors and their in vivo transfection efficiency. Vectors with a rapid rate of disintegration such as those containing dioleoyl-phosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE) poorly stayed in the lung and were barely active in transfecting cells. In contrast, cholesterol-containing vectors that had a rapid aggregation and a slow disintegration were highly efficient in transfecting cells in vivo. The results of this study explain why cationic lipidic vectors of different lipid compositions have a dramatic difference in their in vivo transfection efficiency. These results also suggest that the study of the interactions of lipidic vectors with serum may serve as a predictive model for the in vivo efficiency of a lipidic vector. Further study of the numerous interactions of lipidic vectors with serum might lead to the development of a vector which can deliver a gene to target cells in a tissue-specific manner.

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