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Anal Biochem. 2007 May 1;364(1):8-18. Epub 2007 Jan 20.

Structural characterization of N-linked oligosaccharides on monoclonal antibody cetuximab by the combination of orthogonal matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization hybrid quadrupole-quadrupole time-of-flight tandem mass spectrometry and sequential enzymatic digestion.

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Department of Bioanalytical Science, Imclone Systems Incorporated, Branchburg, NJ 08876, USA.


Cetuximab is a novel therapeutic monoclonal antibody with two N-glycosylation sites: a conserved site in the CH2 domain and a second site within the framework 3 of the variable portion of the heavy chain. The detailed structures of these oligosaccharides were successfully characterized using orthogonal matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization hybrid quadrupole-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (oMALDI Qq-TOF MS) and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) in combination with exoglycosidase digestion. The N-linked oligosaccharides were released by treatment with N-glycanase F, reductively aminated with anthranilic acid, and fractionated by normal phase high-performance liquid chromatography (NP-HPLC). The fluorescent-labeled oligosaccharide pool and fractions were analyzed by oMALDI Qq-TOF MS and MS/MS in negative ion mode. Each fraction was further digested with an array of exoglycosidase mixtures, and subsequent MALDI TOF MS analysis of the resulting products yielded information about structural features of the oligosaccharide. The combined data revealed the presence of 21 distinct oligosaccharide structures in cetuximab. These oligosaccharides differ mainly in degree of sialylation with N-glycolyl neuraminic acid and extent of galactosylation (zero-, mono-, di-, and alpha(1-3)-galactosidase). The individual oligosaccharides were further assigned to the specific sites in the Fab and Fc regions of the antibody. This study represents a unique approach in that MS/MS data were used to identify and confirm the oligosaccharide structures of a protein.

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