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Anal Chem. 2009 Nov 1;81(21):8900-7. doi: 10.1021/ac901506p.

Profiling the glycoforms of the intact alpha subunit of recombinant human chorionic gonadotropin by high-resolution capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry.

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  • 1Barnett Institute and Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


With the rapid growth of complex heterogeneous biological molecules, effective techniques that are capable of rapid characterization of biologics are essential to ensure the desired product characteristics. To address this need, we have developed a method for analysis of intact glycoproteins based on high-resolution capillary electrophoretic separation coupled to an LTQ-FT mass spectrometer. We evaluated the performance of this method on the alpha subunit of mouse cell line-derived recombinant human chorionic gonadotrophin (r-alpha hCG), a protein that is glycosylated at two sites and is part of the clinically relevant gonadotrophin family. Analysis of r-alpha hCG, using capillary electrophoresis (CE) with a separation time under 20 min, resulted in the identification of over 60 different glycoforms with up to nine sialic acids. High-resolution CE-Fourier transform mass spectrometry (FT-MS) allowed separation and analysis of not only intact glycoforms with different numbers of sialic acids but also intact glycoforms that differed by the number and extent of neutral monosaccharides. The high mass resolution of the FT-MS enabled a limited mass range to be targeted for the examination of the protein glycoforms, simplifying the analysis without sacrificing accuracy. In addition, the limited mass range resulted in a fast scan speed that enhanced the reproducibility of the relative quantitation of individual glycoforms. The intact glycoprotein analysis was complemented with the analysis of the tryptic glycopeptides and glycans of r-alpha hCG to enable the assignment of glycan structures to individual sites, resulting in a detailed characterization of the protein. Samples of r-alpha hCG obtained from a CHO cell line were also analyzed and briefly shown to be significantly different from the murine cell line product. Taken together, the results suggest that the CE coupled to high-resolution FT-MS can be one of the effective tools for in-process monitoring as well as for final product characterization.

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