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Pharmeuropa Bio. 2004 Dec;2004(1):35-45.

Somatropin and its variants: structural characterization and methods of analysis.

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Synthelabo Recherche, Analysis and Quality Control Unit, Innopole, Voie n1, BP137, 31676 Lab├Ęge Cedex, France.


Human Growth hormone (hGH, somatotrophin) is a 22 kDa, 191 amino-acid single chain protein produced by somatroph cells of the anterior pituitary gland. It is the major physiological regulator of growth, and deficiencies in growth hormone levels have long been recognized as the underlying cause of growth disorders (dwarfism). The ability of exogenous hGH to restore normal rates of growth in both human and animal models of growth retardation has long been recognized and the use of hGH in therapy goes back several decades. Initial preparations were prepared by extraction and purification from cadaveric pituitary tissue, and since 1984, hGH has been prepared by recombinant Deoxyribosenucleic acid (rDNA) technology. As is usually the case with "biologicals", characterization of the drug substance depended on a combination of physico-chemical and biological methods, and the hGH molecule became well characterized fairly early in its life as a drug. Indeed, by 1980 the major degradation forms and structural variants of the hGH molecule had been described and reviewed. Little satisfactory progress had been made in refining biological assays for hGH, and, although in vitro assays were described, potency-defining assays remained dependant on the whole body growth response in rats, and were both invasive and imprecise. In the early 1990's a series of collaborative studies on analysis of recombinant hGH (somatropin) established that available bioassays were much less selective that physico-chemical methods in detecting and quantifying structural degradation, and 1994 saw an international consensus to replace the bioassays with physico-chemical analytical methods for the routine batch release of somatropin. During the last decade in most markets somatropin has, unusually for a protein, been subject to batch release and control dependent entirely on physico-chemical analysis, without the routine use of any form of bioassay. During that time there has been a continuous development and refinement of methods, and the identification of a range of structural variants and degradation products of the molecule. The present review sets out to summarise the current knowledge on physico-chemical analytical methods for somatropin, and the structural variants that have been identified and characterized. A survey of available biological analytical methods is beyond the scope of this review, as is consideration of the earlier pituitary preparations and the recombinant 192 amino-acid methionyl form of the molecule (somatrem), although it is likely that many of the methods and variants described would be equally applicable to somatrem.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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