Applying horizontal gene transfer phenomena to enhance non-viral gene therapy

Jacob J. Elmer, Matthew D. Christensen, Kaushal Rege

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is widespread amongst prokaryotes, but eukaryotes tend to be far less promiscuous with their genetic information. However, several examples of HGT from pathogens into eukaryotic cells have been discovered and mimicked to improve non-viral gene delivery techniques. For example, several viral proteins and DNA sequences have been used to significantly increase cytoplasmic and nuclear gene delivery. Plant genetic engineering is routinely performed with the pathogenic bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens and similar pathogens (e.g. Bartonella henselae) may also be able to transform human cells. Intracellular parasites like Trypanosoma cruzi may also provide new insights into overcoming cellular barriers to gene delivery. Finally, intercellular nucleic acid transfer between host cells will also be briefly discussed. This article will review the unique characteristics of several different viruses and microbes and discuss how their traits have been successfully applied to improve non-viral gene delivery techniques. Consequently, pathogenic traits that originally caused diseases may eventually be used to treat many genetic diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-257
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens
  • Bartonella henselae
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Mimicry
  • Non-viral gene delivery
  • Trypanosoma cruzi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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