Cryopreservation, directed differentiation, and genetic manipulation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) all require the transport of exogenous small molecules, proteins, or DNA into the cell. The absence of standard small and macromolecule loading techniques in hESCs as well as the inadequacies of current DNA transfection techniques have led us to develop electroporation as an efficient loading and transfection methodology. The electroporation parameters of pulse voltage, duration, and number have been explored and evaluated in terms of cell viability, molecular loading, and transfection efficiency on a per cell basis. Small molecule loading was assessed using propidium iodide (PI) and the disaccharide trehalose. Additionally, protein loading was investigated using a glutathione-S-transferase green fluorescent protein (GST-GFP) conjugate, and DNA transfection optimization was performed by constitutive expression of GFP from a plasmid. The optimum pulse voltage must balance cell viability, which decreases as voltage increases, and loading efficiency, which increases at higher voltages. Short pulse times of 0.05 ms facilitated PI and trehalose loading, whereas 0.5 ms or more was required for GST-GFP loading and DNA transfection. Multiple pulses increased per cell loading of all molecules, though there was a dramatic loss of viability with GST-GFP loading and DNA transfection, likely resulting from the longer pulse duration required to load these molecules.

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