Poly(2-aminoethyl methacrylate) (PAEM) homopolymers with defined chain length and narrow molecular weight distribution were synthesized using atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP), and a comprehensive study was conducted to evaluate the colloidal properties of PAEM/ plasmid DNA polyplexes, the uptake and subcellular trafficking of polyplexes in antigen-presenting dendritic cells (DCs), and the biological performance of PAEM as a potential DNA vaccine carrier. PAEM of different chain length (45, 75, and 150 repeating units) showed varying strength in condensing plasmid DNA into narrowly dispersed nanoparticles with very low cytotoxicity. Longer polymer chain length resulted in higher levels of overall cellular uptake and nuclear uptake of plasmid DNA, but shorter polymer chains favored intracellular and intranuclear release of free plasmid from the polyplexes. Despite its simple chemical structure, PAEM transfected DCs very efficiently in vitro in media with or without serum and led to phenotypic maturation of DCs. When a model antigen-encoding ovalbumin plasmid was used, transfected DCs stimulated the activation of nai ̈ve CD8+ T cells to produce high levels of interferon-γ. The efficiency of transfection, DC maturation, and CD8+ T cell activation showed varying degrees of polymer chainlength dependence. These structurally defined cationic polymers may have much potential as efficient DNA vaccine carriers and immunostimulatory adjuvants. They may also serve as a model material system for elucidating structural and intracellular mechanisms of polymer-mediated DNA vaccine delivery.