Vector-free intracellular delivery by reversible permeabilization

Shirley O'Dea, Valeria Annibaldi, Louise Gallagher, Joanne Mulholland, Emer L. Molloy, Conor J. Breen, Jennifer L. Gilbert, Darren S. Martin, Michael Maguire, Fitz Roy Curry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Despite advances in intracellular delivery technologies, efficient methods are still required that are vector-free, can address a wide range of cargo types and can be applied to cells that are difficult to transfect whilst maintaining cell viability. We have developed a novel vector- free method that uses reversible permeabilization to achieve rapid intracellular delivery of cargos with varying composition, properties and size. A permeabilizing delivery solution was developed that contains a low level of ethanol as the permeabilizing agent. Reversal of cell permeabilization is achieved by temporally and volumetrically controlling the contact of the target cells with this solution. Cells are seeded in conventional multi-well plates. Following removal of the supernatant, the cargo is mixed with the delivery solution and applied directly to the cells using an atomizer. After a short incubation period, permeabilization is halted by incubating the cells in a phosphate buffer saline solution that dilutes the ethanol and is non-toxic to the permeabilized cells. Normal culture medium is then added. The procedure lasts less than 5 min. With this method, proteins, mRNA, plasmid DNA and other molecules have been delivered to a variety of cell types, including primary cells, with low toxicity and cargo functionality has been confirmed in proof-of-principle studies. Co-delivery of different cargo types has also been demonstrated. Importantly, delivery occurs by diffusion directly into the cytoplasm in an endocytic-independent manner. Unlike some other vectorfree methods, adherent cells are addressed in situ without the need for detachment from their substratum. The method has also been adapted to address suspension cells. This delivery method is gentle yet highly reproducible, compatible with high throughput and automated cell-based assays and has the potential to enable a broad range of research, drug discovery and clinical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0174779
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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