The "proton sponge hypothesis" postulates enhanced transgene delivery by cationic polymer-DNA complexes (polyplexes) containing H+ buffering polyamines by enhanced endosomal Cl- accumulation and osmotic swelling/lysis. To test this hypothesis, we measured endosomal Cl- concentration, pH, and volume after internalization of polyplexes composed of plasmid DNA and polylysine (POL), a non-buffering polyamine, or the strongly buffering polyamines polyethylenimine (PEI) or polyamidoamine (PAM). [Cl-] and pH were measured by ratio imaging of fluorescently labeled polyplexes containing Cl- or pH indicators. [Cl-] increased from 41 to 80 mM over 60 min in endosomes-contained POL-polyplexes, whereas pH decreased from 6.8 to 5.3. Endosomal Cl- accumulation was enhanced (115 mM at 60 min) and acidification was slowed (pH 5.9 at 60 min) for PEI and PAM-polyplexes. Relative endosome volume increased 20% over 75 min for POL-polyplexes versus 140% for PEI-polyplexes. Endosome lysis was seen at >45 min for PEI but not POL-containing endosomes, and PEI-containing endosomes showed increased osmotic fragility in vitro. The slowed endosomal acidification and enhanced Cl- accumulation and swelling/lysis were accounted for by the greater H+ buffering capacity of endosomes containing PEI or PAM versus POL (>90 mM versus 46 H+/pH unit). Our results provide direct support for the proton sponge hypothesis and thus a rational basis for the design of improved non-viral vectors for gene delivery.
SciCrunch is a data sharing and display platform. Anyone can create a custom portal where they can select searchable subsets of hundreds of data sources, brand their web pages and create their community. SciCrunch will push data updates automatically to all portals on a weekly basis. User communities can also add their own data to scicrunch, however this is not currently a free service.