Intracellular plasmid is rapidly incorporated into the nucleus of HeLa cells following cationic lipoplex transfection. CV1 cells are less effective in translocating plasmid to the nucleus and also express less transgene than HeLa cells. Cultured HeLa and CV1 cells and corresponding isolated nuclei were analyzed after transfection of a Cy3-labeled pGreenLantern plasmid (Cy3-pGL). Flow cytometry was used to measure both plasmid delivery and transgene expression from the plasmid encoding a CMV promoter-driven green fluorescent protein. During transfection, HeLa cells rapidly incorporated the plasmid, reaching a maximum of 80% Cy3-pGL positive cells 8 h posttransfection. The average Cy3-pGL-positive HeLa cell contained approximately 2470 plasmid copies. Forty-eight percent of the nuclei isolated from the transfected HeLa cells were positive for the plasmid marker after 8 h. In contrast to HeLa cells, fewer CV1 cells and CV1 nuclei incorporated plasmid DNA with peak transfection occurring after 12 h for 36% of the cells and after 8 h for 12% of the nuclei. However, the average Cy3-pGL-positive CV1 cell did not have a significantly different number of total cellular plasmid copies than the average positive HeLa cell. CV1 nuclei, however, had half as much nuclear associated plasmid as HeLa nuclei. HeLa cells are more efficient than CV1 cells at transporting plasmid from the cytoplasm to the nucleus. This study demonstrates the use of a novel quantitative method to study plasmid transport from the cytoplasm to the nucleus and the effect on transgene expression.