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Published June 1, 1987 | public
Journal Article Open

Poly-L-ornithine-mediated transformation of mammalian cells


Poly-L-ornithine has been used to introduce DNA and RNA into mammalian cells in culture. Ornithine-mediated DNA transfer has several interesting and potentially useful properties. The procedure is technically straightforward and is easily applied to either small or large numbers of recipient cells. The efficiency of transformation is high. Under optimal conditions, 1 to 2% of recipient mouse L cells take up and continue to express selectable marker genes. DNA content of transformants can be varied reproducibly, yielding cells with just one or two copies of the new gene under one set of conditions, while under a different set of conditions 25 to 50 copies are acquired. Cotransformation and expression of physically unlinked genes occur at high efficiency under conditions favoring multiple-copy transfer. Polyornithine promotes gene transfer into cell lines other than L cells. These include Friend erythroleukemia cells and NIH 3T3 cells. Both are transformed about 1 order of magnitude more efficiently by this procedure than by standard calcium phosphate products. However, the method does not abolish the large transformation efficiency differences between these cell lines that have been observed previously by other techniques. (vi) mRNA synthesized in vitro was also introduced into cells by this method. The RNA was translated resulting in a transient accumulation of the protein product.

Additional Information

Copyright © 1987 by the American Society for Microbiology. Received 28 July 1986/Accepted 20 March 1987 We thank Jesse Jong for excellent technical assistance with cell culture and Susanna Chan for work on RNA transfer. We also thank J. Ngai, E. Lazarides, T. Novak, and E. Rothenberg for information on ornithine-mediated transformations of Friend cells and T-cell lines. This work was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship to V.C.B. from the National Institutes of Health, and Rita Allen and Searle Scholars Fund grants to B.W.


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