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J Biotechnol. 2012 Oct 31;161(3):336-48. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiotec.2012.06.038. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

Differences in the glycosylation of recombinant proteins expressed in HEK and CHO cells.

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Protein and Cell Sciences, Geneva Research Center, Merck Serono S.A., 9 chemin des Mines, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland.


Glycosylation is one of the most common posttranslational modifications of proteins. It has important roles for protein structure, stability and functions. In vivo the glycostructures influence pharmacokinetics and immunogenecity. It is well known that significant differences in glycosylation and glycostructures exist between recombinant proteins expressed in mammalian, yeast and insect cells. However, differences in protein glycosylation between different mammalian cell lines are much less well known. In order to examine differences in glycosylation in mammalian cells we have expressed 12 proteins in the two commonly used cell lines HEK and CHO. The cells were transiently transfected, and the expressed proteins were purified. To identify differences in glycosylation the proteins were analyzed on SDS-PAGE, isoelectric focusing (IEF), mass spectrometry and released glycans on capillary gel electrophoresis (CGE-LIF). For all proteins significant differences in the glycosylation were detected. The proteins migrated differently on SDS-PAGE, had different isoform patterns on IEF, showed different mass peak distributions on mass spectrometry and showed differences in the glycostructures detected in CGE. In order to verify that differences detected were attributed to glycosylation the proteins were treated with deglycosylating enzymes. Although, culture conditions induced minor changes in the glycosylation the major differences were between the two cell lines.

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