Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Import of exogenous plasmid DNA (pDNA) into mammalian cell nuclei represents a key intracellular obstacle to efficient non-viral gene delivery. This includes access of the pDNA to the nuclei of non-dividing cells where the presence of an intact nuclear membrane is limiting for gene transfer. Here we identify, isolate, and characterize, cytoplasmic determinants of pDNA nuclear import into digitonin-permeabilized HeLa cells. Depletion of putative DNA-binding proteins, on the basis of their ability to bind immobilized pDNA, abolished pDNA nuclear import supporting the critical role of cytoplasmic factors in this process. Elution of pDNA-bound proteins, followed by two-dimensional sodium dodecyl polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis identified several candidate DNA shuttle proteins. We show that two of these, NM23-H2, a ubiquitous c-Myc transcription-activating nucleoside diphosphate kinase, and the core histone H2B can both reconstitute pDNA nuclear import. Further, we demonstrate a significant increase in gene transfer in non-dividing HeLa cells transiently transfected with pDNA containing binding sequences from two of the DNA shuttle proteins, NM23-H2 and the homeobox transcription factor Chx10. These data support the hypothesis that exogenous pDNA binds to cytoplasmic shuttle proteins and is then translocated to the nucleus using the minimal import machinery. Importantly, increasing the binding of pDNA to shuttle proteins by re-engineering reporter plasmids with shuttle binding sequences enhances gene transfer. Increasing the potential for exogenously added pDNA to bind intracellular transport cofactors may enhance the potency of non-viral gene transfer.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





26978 - 26987


Active Transport, Cell Nucleus, Cell Extracts, Cell Membrane Permeability, Cell Nucleus, Cytoplasm, DNA, Digitonin, Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional, HeLa Cells, Homeodomain Proteins, Humans, NM23 Nucleoside Diphosphate Kinases, Plasmids, Protein Binding, Proteins, Proteomics, Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization, Transcription Factors, Transfection