Cellular entry of nanoparticles for drug- and gene delivery relies on various endocytic pathways, including clathrin-and caveolae-mediated endocytosis. To improve delivery, i.e., the therapeutic and/or cell biological impact, current efforts are aimed at avoiding processing of the carriers along the degradative clathrin-mediated pathway towards lysosomes, and promoting that along the caveolae-mediated pathway. Here, we demonstrate the effective internalization of branched polyethylenimine polymers (BPEI), complexed with nucleic acids, by HeLa cells along both pathways. However, transfection efficiency or nuclear ODN delivery primarily occurs via the caveolae-mediated pathway, along which delivery into lysosomes is avoided. Interestingly, inhibition of intracellular protein kinase A (PKA) activity modulates the intracellular trafficking of both poly-and lipoplexes along the clathrin-mediated pathway by impeding trafficking into the late endosomal/lysosomal compartments, thus avoiding degradation. In case of BPEI polyplexes this promotes their transfection efficiency by 2-3 fold. Evidence excludes early endosomes as a major site for BPEI-mediated release/delivery. Rather, weidentify a novel compartment, tentatively characterized as a transferrin(-)/rab9(-)/LAMP1(-) compartment, to which cargo within the clathrin-mediated pathway of endocytosis is rerouted upon inhibition of PKA, and which may act as an alternative and effective site of cargo release in gene delivery. Our findings offer new opportunities for improving gene delivery by non-viral based nanoparticles. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.