Cationic carriers of genetic material and cell death: A mitochondrial tale

A. Christy Hunter, S. Moein Moghimi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Central to gene therapy technology has been the use of cationic polymers as vectors for DNA and RNA (polyfectins). These have been presumed to be safer than viral systems which, for example, have been found to switch on oncogenes. Two key polycations that have been intensively researched for use as synthetic vectors are poly(ethylenimine) and poly(l-lysine). A frequent stumbling block with these polyfectins is that long-term gene expression in cell lines has not been achieved. Recently it has transpired that both of these polycations can induce mitochondrially mediated apoptosis. It is the aim of this review to discuss the mechanisms behind the observed polycation toxicity including roles for little studied cellular organelles in the process such as the lysosome and endoplasmic reticulum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1203-1209
Number of pages7
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics
Issue number6-7
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Apoptosis
  • Bid
  • Endolysosomotrophic agent
  • Gene therapy
  • Gene transfection
  • Lysosome
  • Mitochondria
  • Poly(ethylenimine)
  • Poly(l-lysine)
  • Polycation
  • Surfactant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Cell Biology


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