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A Scalable, Extrusion-Free Method for Efficient Liposomal Encapsulation of Plasmid DNA

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A fully scalable and extrusion-free method was developed to prepare rapidly and reproducibly stabilized plasmid lipid particles (SPLP) for nonviral, systemic gene therapy.


Liposomes encapsulating plasmid DNA were formed instantaneously by mixing lipids dissolved in ethanol with an aqueous solution of DNA in a controlled, stepwise manner. Combining DNA-buffer and lipid-ethanol flow streams in a T-shaped mixing chamber resulted in instantaneous dilution of ethanol below the concentration required to support lipid solubility. The resulting DNA-containing liposomes were further stabilized by a second stepwise dilution.


Using this method, monodisperse vesicles were prepared with particle sizes less than 200 nm and DNA encapsulation efficiencies greater than 80%. In mice possessing Neuro 2a tumors, SPLP demonstrated a 13 h circulation half-life in vivo, good tumor accumulation and gene expression profiles similar to SPLP previously prepared by detergent dialysis. Cryo transmission electron microscopy analysis showed that SPLP prepared by stepwise ethanol dilution were a mixed population of unilamellar, bilamellar, and oligolamellar vesicles. Vesicles of similar lipid composition, prepared without DNA, were also <200 nm but were predominantly bilamellar with unusual elongate d morphologies, suggesting that the plasmid particle affects the morphology of the encapsulating liposome. A similar approach was used to prepare neutral egg phosphatidylcholine:cholesterol (EPC:Chol) liposomes possessing a pH gradient, which was confirmed by the uptake of the lipophilic cation safranin O.


This new method will enable the scale-up and manufacture of SPLP required for preclinical and clinical studies. Additionally, this method now allows for the acceleration of SPLP formulation development, enabling the rapid development and evaluation of novel carrier systems.

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dioleyldimethylammonium chloride












egg phosphatidylcholine


Hepes buffered saline


tritium-labeled cholesteryl hexadecyl ether




phosphate buffered saline






quasi-elastic light scattering


stabilized plasmid lipid particles


spontaneous vesicle formation


Tris EDTA buffer


transmission electron microscopy


potassium 2-(p-toluidino)-6-naphthalenesulfonic acid


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Correspondence to Ian MacLachlan.

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Jeffs, L., Palmer, L., Ambegia, E. et al. A Scalable, Extrusion-Free Method for Efficient Liposomal Encapsulation of Plasmid DNA. Pharm Res 22, 362–372 (2005).

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Key Words:

  • DNA
  • liposome
  • plasmid
  • systemic gene delivery