In order to mimic the histidine binding motives of naturally occurring histones as DNA complexing proteins, hyperbranched poly(ethylene imine) and polyglycerol were functionalized with imidazole or 3-dimethylamino propyl groups. These new polycationic polymers were tested for interaction with dye-labelled oligonucleotide and DNA using UV and fluorescence spectroscopy and gel electrophoresis. Formation of stable complexes was observed above N/P ratios of 4 for unfunctionalized and 8 for functionalized PEIs. No stable complexes were formed with polyglycerol-based polyamines up to N/P 16. Cytotoxicity determined by MTT assay of all functionalized PEI polymers was found to be significantly lower than for unfunctionalized PEI. PG-based polymers showed no toxicity in the tested concentration range. Dynamic light scattering showed that only for PEI(21)-Imidaz polyplexes hydrodynamic diameters below 250 nm could be reached.The influence of functionalization and polymer type on transfection efficiency was evaluated in L929, NIH/3T3 and HeLa cells. Only imidazole-functionalized PEIs reached similar transfection efficiencies as unfunctionalized PEIs, while 3-dimethylamino propyl modification resulted in lower transfection efficiencies. We also demonstrated that the polymer plays an important role for transfection properties since, regardless of the modifications of polyglycerol, only low transfection efficiencies were observed at functionalization levels below 50%.