Enhancement of poly(orthoester) microspheres for DNA vaccine delivery by blending with poly(ethylenimine)

David N. Nguyen, Shyam S. Raghavan, Lauren M. Tashima, Elizabeth C. Lin, Stephen J. Fredette, Robert S. Langer, Chun Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Poly(orthoester) (POE) microspheres have been previously shown to possess certain advantages for the in vivo delivery of DNA vaccines. In particular, timing of DNA release from POE microspheres in response to acidic phagosomal pH was shown to be an important factor in determining immunogenicity, which was hypothesized to be linked to the natural progression of antigen-presenting cell uptake, transfection, maturation, and antigen presentation. Here we report in vitro characterization of the enhanced efficacy of POE microspheres by blending poly(ethylenimine) (PEI), a well-characterized cationic transfection agent, into the POE matrix. Blending of a tiny amount of PEI (approximately 0.04 wt%) with POE caused large alterations in POE microsphere properties. PEI provided greater control over the rate of pH-triggered DNA release by doubling the total release time of plasmid DNA and enhanced gene transfection efficiency of the microspheres up to 50-fold without any significant cytotoxicity. Confocal microscopy results of labeled PEI and DNA plasmids revealed that PEI caused a surface-localizing distribution of DNA and PEI within the POE microsphere as well as focal co-localization of PEI with DNA. We provide evidence that upon degradation, the microspheres of POE-PEI blends released electrostatic complexes of DNA and PEI, which are responsible for the enhanced gene transfection. Furthermore, blending PEI into the POE microsphere induced 50-60% greater phenotypic maturation and activation of bone marrow-derived dendritic cells in vitro, judged by the up-regulation of co-stimulatory markers on the cell surface. Physically blending PEI with POE is a simple approach for modulating the properties of biodegradable microspheres in terms of gene transfection efficiency and DNA release kinetics. Combined with the ability to induce maturation of antigen-presenting cells, POE-PEI blended microspheres may be excellent carriers for DNA vaccines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2783-2793
Number of pages11
Issue number18
StatePublished - Jun 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge support from NIH Grant # EB000244, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and the Whitaker Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.


  • Controlled drug release
  • Gene therapy
  • Immune response
  • Microsphere
  • Polyorthoester


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