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Biochemistry. 2010 Nov 2;49(43):9328-38. doi: 10.1021/bi100841u.

Acid-induced aggregation of human monoclonal IgG1 and IgG2: molecular mechanism and the effect of solution composition.

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Process and Product Development, Amgen Inc., Seattle, WA 98119, USA.


The prevention of aggregation in therapeutic antibodies is of great importance to the biopharmaceutical industry. In our investigation, acid-induced aggregation of monoclonal IgG1 and IgG2 antibodies was studied at pH 3.5 as a function of salt concentration and buffer type. The extent of aggregation was estimated using a native cation-exchange chromatography (CEX) method based on the loss of soluble monomer. This approach allowed quantitative analysis of antibody aggregation kinetics for individual and mixed protein solutions. Information regarding the aggregation mechanism was gained by assessing stabilities of intact antibodies relative to their Fc and Fab fragments. The role of protein thermodynamic stability in aggregation was deduced from differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The rate of aggregation under conditions mimicking the viral inactivation step during monoclonal antibody (mAb) processing was found to be strongly dependent on the antibody subclass (IgG1 vs IgG2). At 25 °C, IgG1s were resistant to low pH aggregation, but IgG2s aggregated readily in the presence of salt. The observed distinction between IgG1 and IgG2 aggregation resulted from differential stability of the corresponding C(H)2 domains. This was further confirmed by experimenting with an IgG1 molecule containing an aglycosylated C(H)2 domain. Interestingly, comparative analysis of two buffer systems (based on acetic acid vs citric acid) revealed differences in mAb aggregation under identical pH conditions. Evidence is provided for the importance of the total acid concentration for antibody aggregation at low pH. The effects of C(H)2 instability and solution composition on aggregation are significant and deserve careful consideration during the development of mAb- or Fc-based therapeutics.

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