PloS one

Optimizing NTS-polyplex as a tool for gene transfer to cultured dopamine neurons.

PMID 23300540


The study of signal transduction in dopamine (DA)-containing neurons as well as the development of new therapeutic approaches for Parkinson's disease requires the selective expression of transgenes in such neurons. Here we describe optimization of the use of the NTS-polyplex, a gene carrier system taking advantage of neurotensin receptor internalization, to transfect mouse DA neurons in primary culture. The plasmids DsRed2 (4.7 kbp) and VGLUT2-Venus (11 kbp) were used to compare the ability of this carrier system to transfect plasmids of different sizes. We examined the impact of age of the neurons (1, 3, 5 and 8 days after seeding), of culture media used during the transfection (Neurobasal with B27 vs. conditioned medium) and of three molar ratios of plasmid DNA to carrier. While the NTS-polyplex successfully transfected both plasmids in a control N1E-115 cell line, only the pDsRed2 plasmid could be transfected in primary cultured DA neurons. We achieved 20% transfection efficiency of pDsRed2 in DA neurons, with 80% cell viability. The transfection was demonstrated pharmacologically to be dependent on activation of neurotensin receptors and to be selective for DA neurons. The presence of conditioned medium for transfection was found to be required to insure cell viability. Highest transfection efficiency was achieved in the most mature neurons. In contrast, transfection with the VGLUT2-Venus plasmid produced cell damage, most likely due to the high molar ratios required, as evidenced by a 15% cell viability of DA neurons at the three molar ratios tested (1:36, 1:39 and 1:42). We conclude that, when used at molar ratios lower than 1:33, the NTS-polyplex can selectively transfect mature cultured DA neurons with only low levels of toxicity. Our results provide evidence that the NTS-polyplex has good potential for targeted gene delivery in cultured DA neurons, an in vitro system of great use for the screening of new therapeutic approaches for Parkinson's disease.

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N1E-115, 88112303