Tailoring charge density and hydrogen bonding of imidazolium copolymers for efficient gene delivery

Michael H. Allen, Matthew D. Green, Hiwote K. Getaneh, Kevin M. Miller, Timothy E. Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Conventional free radical polymerization with subsequent postpolymerization modification afforded imidazolium copolymers with controlled charge density and side chain hydroxyl number. Novel imidazolium-containing copolymers where each permanent cation contained one or two adjacent hydroxyls allowed precise structure-transfection efficiency studies. The degree of polymerization was identical for all copolymers to eliminate the influence of molecular weight on transfection efficiency. DNA binding, cytotoxicity, and in vitro gene transfection in African green monkey COS-7 cells revealed structure-property- transfection relationships for the copolymers. DNA gel shift assays indicated that higher charge densities and hydroxyl concentrations increased DNA binding. As the charge density of the copolymers increased, toxicity of the copolymers also increased; however, as hydroxyl concentration increased, cytotoxicity remained constant. Changing both charge density and hydroxyl levels in a systematic fashion revealed a dramatic influence on transfection efficiency. Dynamic light scattering of the polyplexes, which were composed of copolymer concentrations required for the highest luciferase expression, showed an intermediate DNA-copolymer binding affinity. Our studies supported the conclusion that cationic copolymer binding affinity significantly impacts overall transfection efficiency of DNA delivery vehicles, and the incorporation of hydroxyl sites offers a less toxic and effective alternative to more conventional highly charged copolymers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2243-2250
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 13 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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