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Endocrinology. 1991 Jan;128(1):341-8.

Biological activity and metabolic clearance of a recombinant human thyrotropin produced in Chinese hamster ovary cells.

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  • 1Molecular, Cellular and Nutritional Endocrinology Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


The presence and specific structures of the oligosaccharides on TSH have been shown to be important for its production and bioactivity. Since the carbohydrate structure of a protein reflects the glycosylation apparatus of the host cells in which the protein is expressed, we examined the biological activity and metabolic clearance of a preparation of purified recombinant human (rh) TSH derived from a stable transfectant of Chinese hamster ovary cells. Carbohydrate compositional analysis of this rTSH showed it to be more highly sialylated than a nonrecombinant, cadaver-derived pituitary hTSH. In addition, no N-acetyl galactosamine was detectable in rhTSH, which implies the absence of terminal sulfate moieties, both of which are present in pituitary-derived TSH. The immunologic activity and porcine TSH receptor-binding activity of the preparation of rhTSH were 3- to 4-fold lower than those of a standard pituitary hTSH. The rhTSH showed a maximum stimulatory activity similar to that of pituitary hTSH in two different in vitro bioassays. However, rhTSH elicited about 3-fold and 5-fold less cAMP than pituitary TSH after stimulation of adenylyl cyclase in bovine thyroid membranes and the rat FRTL-5 cell line, respectively. Removal of sialic acid did not alter the immunologic activity of rhTSH. However, the potencies of rhTSH in receptor-binding, adenylyl cyclase, and FRTL-5 assays were increased 2.4-, 2.6- and 26.7-fold, respectively after sialic acid removal. These data suggest that the in vitro biological activity of rhTSH is influenced by its highly sialylated oligosaccharide chains. The rhTSH had a 2-fold lower metabolic clearance rate than pituitary TSH, resulting in a greater than 10-fold higher serum concentration of rhTSH at 3 h as compared to pituitary hTSH. After sialic acid removal, the rhTSH was cleared faster (7.5-fold) than pituitary hTSH, showing that its longer plasma half-life was due to its higher sialylation. Biologically active rhTSH should be of clinical value in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with thyroid cancer and as a pure hTSH reference preparation.

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