Polybrene inhibits human mesenchymal stem cell proliferation during lentiviral transduction

Paul Lin, Diego Correa, Yuan Lin, Arnold I. Caplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) can be engineered to express specific genes, either for their use in cell-based therapies or to track them in vivo over long periods of time. To obtain long-term expression of these genes, a lentivirus- or retrovirus-mediated cell transduction is often used. However, given that the efficiency with these viruses is typically low in primary cells, additives such as polybrene are always used for efficient viral transduction. Unfortunately, as presented here, exposure to polybrene alone at commonly used concentratons (1-8 μg/mL) negatively impacts hMSC proliferation in a dose-dependent manner as measured by CyQUANT, EdU incorporation, and cell cycle analysis. This inhibition of proliferation was observable in culture even 3 weeks after exposure. Culturing the cells in the presence of FGF-2, a potent mitogen, did not abrogate this negative effect of polybrene. In fact, the normally sharp increase in hMSC proliferation that occurs during the first days of exposure to FGF-2 was absent at 4 μg/mL or higher concentrations of polybrene. Similarly, the effect of stimulating cell proliferation under simulated hypoxic conditions was also decreased when cells were exposed to polybrene, though overall proliferation rates were higher. The negative influence of polybrene was, however, reduced when the cells were exposed to polybrene for a shorter period of time (6 hr vs 24 hr). Thus, careful evaluation should be done when using polybrene to aid in lentiviral transduction of human MSCs or other primary cells, especially when cell number is critical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23891
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 26 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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