Cost-effective gene transfection by DNA compaction at pH 4.0 using acidified, long shelf-life polyethylenimine

Yasunori Fukumoto, Yuuki Obata, Kenichi Ishibashi, Naoki Tamura, Ikue Kikuchi, Kazumasa Aoyama, Yasuyuki Hattori, Kunihiko Tsuda, Yuji Nakayama, Naoto Yamaguchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Introduction of genetic material into cells is an essential prerequisite for current research in molecular cell biology. Although transfection with commercially available reagents results in excellent gene expression, their high costs are obstacles to experimentation with a large number or large scales of transfection. The cationic polymer linear-polyethylenimine (MW 25,000) (PEI), one of the most cost-effective vehicles, facilitates DNA compaction by polyplex formation, which leads to efficient delivery of DNA into cells by endocytosis. However, the use of PEI is still limited because of substantial cytotoxicity and intolerable deterioration in transfection efficiency by its low stability. Here, we show that acidification of PEI is important for its transfection activity. Dissolving PEI powder in 0.2N HCl confers a long shelf-life for PEI storage at 4 and -80 °C, and the polyplex formation of plasmid DNA with PEI is optimized in lactate-buffered saline at pH 4.0. Furthermore, changing the culture medium at 8-12 h posttransfection can minimize the cytotoxicity of PEI without sacrificing the high transfection efficiency comparable to that of commercial reagents. The cost per test using acidified PEI is drastically reduced to approximately 1:10,000, compared with commercial reagents. Thus, we conclude that acidification of PEI satisfactorily accomplishes cost-effective, high-efficiency transfection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-82
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Acidification
  • High efficiency transfection
  • Long shelf-life
  • Low cytotoxicity
  • Polyethylenimine (PEI)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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