Efficient transfection of embryonic and adult stem cells

Uma Lakshmipathy, Beatriz Pelacho, Kazuhiro Sudo, Jonathan L. Linehan, Electra Coucouvanis, Dan S. Kaufman, Catherine M. Verfaillie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


The ability of embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells to differentiate into specific cell types holds immense potential for therapeutic use in cell and gene therapy. Realization of this potential depends on efficient and optimized protocols for genetic manipulation of stem cells. In the study reported here, we demonstrate the use of nucleofection as a method to introduce plasmid DNA into embryonic and adult stem cells with significantly greater efficiency than electroporation or lipid-based transfection methods have. Using enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) as a reporter gene, mouse embryonic stem cells were transfected both transiently and stably at a rate nearly 10-fold higher than conventional methods. The transfected cells retained their stem cell properties, including continued expression of the stem cell markers SSEA1, Oct4, and Rex1; formation of embryoid bodies; differentiation into cardiomyocytes in the presence of appropriate inducers; and, when injected into developing blastocysts, contribution to chimeras. Higher levels of transfection were also obtained with human embryonic carcinoma and human embryonic stem cells. Particularly hard-to-transfect adult stem cells, including bone marrow and multipotent adult progenitor cells, were also transfected efficiently by the method of nucleofection. Based on our results, we conclude that nucleofection is superior to currently available methods for introducing plasmid DNA into a variety of embryonic and adult stem cells. The high levels of transfection achieved by nucleofection will enable its use as a rapid screening tool to evaluate the effect of ectopically expressed transcription factors on tissue-specific differentiation of stem cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-543
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004


  • Adult stem cells
  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Nucleofection
  • Transfection


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