Uptake of DNA by cancer cells without a transfection reagent
Abstract Background Cancer cells exhibit elevated levels of glucose uptake and may obtain pre-formed, diet-derived fatty acids from the bloodstream to boost their rapid growth; they may also use nucleic acid from their microenvironment. The study of processing nucleic acid by cancer cells will help improve the understanding of the metabolism of cancer. DNA is commonly packaged into a viral or lipid particle to be transferred into cells; this process is called transfection in laboratory. Cancer cells are known for having gene mutations and the evolving ability of endocytosis. Their uptake of DNAs might be different from normal cells; they may take in DNAs directly from the environment. In this report, we studied the uptake of DNAs in cancer cells without a transfection reagent. Methods A group of DNA fragments were prepared with PCR and labeled with isotope phosphorous-32 to test their uptake by Huh 7 (liver cancer) and THLE3 (normal liver cells) after incubation overnight by counting radioactivity of the cells’ genomic DNA. Multiple cell lines including breast cancer and lung cancer were tested with the same method. DNA molecules were also labeled with fluorescence to test the location in the cells using a kit of “label it fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)” from Mirus (USA). Results The data demonstrated that hepatocellular carcinoma cells possess the ability to take in large DNA fragments directly without a transfection reagent whereas normal liver cells cannot. Huh7 and MDA-MB231 cells displayed a significantly higher Rhodamine density in the cytoplasmic phagosomes and this suggests that the mechanism of uptake of large DNA by cancer cells is likely endocytosis. The efficacy of uptake is related to the DNA’s size. Some cell lines of lung cancer and breast cancer also showed similar uptake of DNA. Conclusions In the present study, we have revealed the evidence that some cancer cells, but not nontumorigenic cells, can take DNA fragments directly from the environment without the aid of the transfecting reagent.