Nano-Self-Assembly of Nucleic Acids Capable of Transfection without a Gene Carrier

Kwang Suk Lim, Daniel Y. Lee, Gabriel M. Valencia, Young Wook Won, David A. Bull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Nonviral gene carriers based on electrostatic interaction, encapsulation, or absorption require a large amount of polymer carrier to achieve reasonable transfection efficiencies. With cationic nanoparticles, for example, genes interact only with the surface of the nanoparticles, resulting in a low surface area to volume ratio (SA/V = 3/r). A large volume of carrier, therefore, is required to deliver a small copy number of genes. In this study, it is demonstrated that a nano-self-assembly of nucleic acids transfects itself into cells spontaneously, without the need for a gene carrier. The cellular uptake of this nanoassembly occurs through a number of endocytosis mechanisms. Once within the cell, the nanoassembly can escape endolysosomal vesicles and facilitate gene transfection. This nano-self-assembly consisting of zinc and plasmid DNA or siRNA, termed the Zn/DNA or Zn/siRNA nanocluster, is formed through the binding of Zn2+ ions to the phosphate groups of nucleic acids. The method described in this paper represents a new platform for carrier-free gene delivery that can be used to deliver any plasmid DNA or siRNA without the requirement for a specific modification in the nucleic acids or complicated steps to prepare dense particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5445-5451
Number of pages7
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number34
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • carrier-free gene delivery
  • divalent metal ions
  • gene delivery
  • zinc chloride

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics


Dive into the research topics of 'Nano-Self-Assembly of Nucleic Acids Capable of Transfection without a Gene Carrier'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this