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Mol Ther Nucleic Acids. 2016 Mar 8;5:e291. doi: 10.1038/mtna.2016.4.

Overcoming the Specific Toxicity of Large Plasmids Electrotransfer in Primary Cells In Vitro.

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Vectorology and Anticancer Therapies, UMR 8203, CNRS, Univ. Paris-Sud, Gustave Roussy, Université Paris-Saclay, Villejuif, France.


Gene electrotransfer is a safe and efficient nonviral technique for the transfer of nucleic acids of all sizes. Using a small reporter plasmid (3.5 kbp), electrotransfer of more than 90% of the cells, with ~70% viability, can be routinely achieved even in primary cells like mesenchymal stem cells. However, under the same experimental conditions, electrotransfer of larger plasmids (from 6 to 16 kbp) results in very low viability and transfection efficacy. Here, we show that these strong decreases are directly linked to the physical size of the plasmid molecule. Moreover, large plasmids are toxic only when the cells are exposed to electrotransfer pulses. This specific toxicity of large plasmids during electrotransfer is not due to transgene expression and occurs within less than 45 minutes. Indeed, postpulses recovery times of up to 45 minutes are able to entirely abolish the specific toxicity of large plasmid electrotransfer, resulting in a survival and transfection efficacy identical to that of small plasmids. Finally, electrotransfer of small and large plasmids can reach 90-99% of transfection with 60-90% survival considering the findings here reported.

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