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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 May 15;88(10):4230-4.

Electroporation by using bipolar oscillating electric field: an improved method for DNA transfection of NIH 3T3 cells.

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Section on Metabolic Regulation, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Using the plasmid DNA pSV2-neo (which, when integrated into the cellular genome confers resistance to the antibiotic G418 for selection), we examined and compared the transfection efficiency on NIH 3T3 cells electropermeabilized by applying a sequence of high-frequency unipolar or bipolar square waves or a single square pulse. Results show that a bipolar square wave is, at least, 1.7- and 5.5-fold more efficient than the unipolar square wave and single square pulse, respectively. In the range of electric field strength used for optimum transfection, the survivability of electropermeabilized cells was comparable between the unipolar and bipolar square waves but fell considerably with the single square pulse. Qualitative comparison of cell permeabilization induced by the three types of wave forms and monitored by ethidium bromide uptake revealed that only the bipolar square wave permeabilizes the cell membrane symmetrically at the two hemispheres facing the electrodes. With unipolar square wave or single square pulse, the membrane is permeabilized either on one side or asymmetrically. Taken together, our result suggests that permeabilization of the membrane at multiple sites without affecting cell survivability may account for the improvements in transfection efficiency observed with bipolar oscillating electric fields.

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