Correlation of mRNA delivery timing and protein expression in lipid-based transfection

A. Reiser, D. Woschée, N. Mehrotra, R. Krzysztoń, H. H. Strey, J. O. Rädler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Non-viral gene delivery is constrained by the dwell time that most synthetic nucleic acid nanocarriers spend inside endosomal compartments. In order to overcome this endosomal-release bottleneck, methods are required that measure nanocarrier uptake kinetics and transfection efficiency simultaneously. Here, we employ live-cell imaging on single-cell arrays (LISCA) to study the delivery-time distribution of lipid-based mRNA complexes under varied serum conditions. By fitting a translation-maturation model to hundreds of individual eGFP reporter fluorescence time courses, the protein expression onset times and the expression rates after transfection are determined. Using this approach, we find that delivery timing and protein expression rates are not intrinsically correlated at the single-cell level, even though population-averaged values of both parameters conjointly change as a function of increasing external serum protein fraction. Lipofectamine-mediated delivery showed decreased transfection efficiency and longer delivery times with increasing serum protein concentration. This is in contrast to ionizable lipid nanoparticle (i-LNP)-mediated transfer, which showed increased efficiency and faster uptake in the presence of serum. In conclusion, the interdependences of single-cell expression rates and onset timing provide additional clues on uptake and release mechanisms, which are useful for improving nucleic acid delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-371
Number of pages10
JournalIntegrative Biology (United Kingdom)
Issue number9
StatePublished - 31 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • mRNA transfection
  • nanoparticle delivery
  • protein expression efficiency
  • single-cell time-lapse measurements


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