Transfection of human endothelial cells

Felix C. Tanner, Dianne P. Carr, Gary J. Nabel, Elizabeth G. Nabel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The introduction of recombinant genes into endothelial cells provides a method to study specific gene products and their effect on cell function. In addition, endothelial cells can be used for implantation into vessels or prosthetic vascular grafts. Because transfection efficiencies in human endothelial cells have been low, it is important to develop improved gene transfer techniques. Therefore, several transfection methods were optimized and transfection efficiencies were determined. Methods: Transfection by particle-mediated gene transfer (biolistics) or by cationic liposomes were optimized and compared to calcium phosphate and DEAE-dextran. Transfection efficiency was determined using either a β-galactosidase or placental alkaline phosphatase reporter gene. The effect of promoter strength was analyzed by transfecting plasmids with either the Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) promoter or cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter regions. Results: Optimal conditions for particle-mediated gene transfer utilized gold particles of 1.6 μm diameter, a target distance of 3 cm, helium pressures of 8.96 MPa (1300 psi) and cell confluence of 75%. Transfection with different cationic liposomes demonstrated that one compound, N-(3-aminopropyl)-N,N-dimethyl- 2,3-(bis-dodecyloxy)-1-propaniminium bromide/dioleoyl phosphatidylethanolamine (γAP-DLRIE/DOPE), was optimal for gene transfer when 5 μg of DNA and 10 to 20 μg of lipid was used. With both gold particles and γAP-DLRIE/DOPE, the alkaline phosphatase reporter was more efficient than β-galactosidase using comparable promoters and polyadenylation sites. CMV regulatory elements were more efficient than the RSV promoter in optimizing gene expression. Optimal gene transfer efficiency was 20.28% of cells with γAP-DLRIE/DOPE, 3.96% with biolistics, 2.09% with calcium phosphate and 0.88% with DEAE-dextran. Conclusions: Gene expression is detectable in a high percentage of human endothelial cells after liposome- mediated transfection when expression is controlled by a strong promoter. Particle-mediated transfection is less efficient under these conditions, but more effective than liposomes when expression is driven by a relatively weak promoter. Calcium phosphate and DEAE-dextran are less useful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-528
Number of pages7
JournalCardiovascular Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Cationic liposomes
  • Endothelium
  • Gene expression
  • Human
  • Particle bombardment
  • Transfection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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