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Protein Expr Purif. 2008 Jun;59(2):223-31. doi: 10.1016/j.pep.2008.02.002. Epub 2008 Feb 21.

Inhibition of V3-specific cleavage of recombinant HIV-1 gp120 produced in Chinese hamster ovary cells.

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  • 1Maxygen, Inc., Infectious Diseases, 515 Galveston Drive, Redwood City, CA 94063, USA.


Specific proteolytic cleavage of the gp120 subunit of the HIV-1 envelope (Env) glycoprotein in the third variable domain (V3) has previously been reported to occur in several cell lines, including Chinese hamster ovary cells that have been used for production of Env-based HIV vaccine candidates. Here we report that this proteolytic activity on JRCSF gp120 is dependent on cell density, medium conditions, and supernatant concentration. The resulting cleaved polypeptides cannot be separated from intact gp120 by conventional or affinity chromatography under non-reducing conditions. Inhibitor studies reveal that Pefabloc and benzamidine, but not chymostatin, block gp120 cleavage in a dose-dependent fashion, suggesting the presence of a trypsin-like serine protease in CHO-K1 cells. The proteolytic activity is increased with certain types of cell culture growth media. A combination of serum-free OptiMEM media during expression and potent protease inhibitors post-expression can effectively prevent HIV gp120 degradation. The same strategy can be applied to the expression and purification of gp120 of other strains or other forms of envelope-based vaccine candidates containing V3 sequences.

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