Transcription factor plasmid binding modulates microtubule interactions and intracellular trafficking during gene transfer

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For non-viral gene delivery to be successful, plasmids must move through the cytoplasm to the nucleus in order to be transcribed. While the cytoskeletal meshwork acts as a barrier to plasmid DNA movement in the cytoplasm, the microtubule network is required for directed plasmid trafficking to the nucleus. We have shown previously that plasmid-microtubule interactions require cytoplasmic adapter proteins such as molecular motors, transcription factors (TFs) and importins. However, not all plasmid sequences support these interactions to allow movement to the nucleus. We now demonstrate that microtubule-DNA interactions can show sequence specificity with promoters containing binding sites for cyclic AMP response-element binding protein (CREB), including the cytomegalovirus immediate early promoter (CMViep). Plasmids containing CREB-binding sites showed stringent interactions in an in vitro microtubule-binding assay. Using microinjection and real-time particle tracking, we show that the inclusion of TF binding sites within plasmids permits cytoplasmic trafficking of plasmids during gene transfer. We found that CREB-binding sites are bound by CREB in the cytoplasm during transfection, and allow for enhanced rates of movement and subsequent nuclear accumulation. Moreover, small interfering RNA knockdown of CREB prevented this enhanced trafficking. Therefore, TF binding sites within plasmids are necessary for interactions with microtubules and enhance movement to the nucleus.

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