The aim of this study is to prepare poly(hydroxyethyl methacrylate-N-methacryloyl(L)-histidine) [PHEMAH] magnetic nanoparticles for plasmid DNA (pDNA) purification from Escherichia coli (E. coli) cell lysate. Magnetic nanoparticles were produced by surfactant free emulsion polymerization. mPHEMAH nanoparticles were characterized by elemental analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), atomic force microscopy (AFM), vibrating sample magnetometer (VSM), electron spin resonance (ESR), thermogravimetric analyses (TGA) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Surface area, average particle size and size distribution were also performed. Specific surface area of the mPHEMAH nanoparticles was found to be 1180 m(2)/g. Elemental analysis of MAH for nitrogen was estimated as 0.18 mmol/g polymer. The amount of pDNA adsorbed onto the mPHEMAH nanoparticles first increased and then reached a saturation value at around 1.0 mg/mL of pDNA concentration. Compared with the mPHEMA nanoparticles (50 mu g/g polymer), the pDNA adsorption capacity of the mPHEMAH nanoparticles (154 mg/g polymer) was improved significantly due to the MAH incorporation into the polymeric matrix. The maximum pDNA adsorption was achieved at 25 degrees C. The overall recovery of pDNA was calculated as 92%. The mPHEMAH nanoparticles could be used six times without decreasing the pDNA adsorption capacity significantly. The results indicate that the PHEMAH nanoparticles promise high selectivity for pDNA. (C) 2012 Published by Elsevier B.V.