Abstract Gene electrotransfer is a promising nonviral method that enables transfer of plasmid DNA into cells with electric pulses. Although many in vitro and in vivo studies have been performed, the question of the implied gene electrotransfer mechanisms is largely open. The main obstacle toward efficient gene electrotransfer in vivo is relatively poor mobility of DNA in tissues. Since cells are mechanically coupled to their extracellular environment and act differently compared to standard in vitro conditions, we developed a three-dimensional (3-D) in vitro model of CHO cells embedded in collagen gel as an ex vivo model of tissue to study electropermeabilization and different parameters of gene electrotransfer. For this purpose, we first used propidium iodide to detect electropermeabilization of CHO cells embedded in collagen gel. Then, we analyzed the influence of different concentrations of plasmid DNA and pulse duration on gene electrotransfer efficiency. Our results revealed that even if cells in collagen gel can be efficiently electropermeabilized, gene expression is significantly lower. Gene electrotransfer efficiency in our 3-D in vitro model had similar dependence on concentration of plasmid DNA and pulse duration comparable to in vivo studies, where longer (millisecond) pulses were shown to be more optimal compared to shorter (microsecond) pulses. The presented results demonstrate that our 3-D in vitro model resembles the in vivo situation more closely than conventional 2-D cell cultures and, thus
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