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Bioconjug Chem. 2013 Mar 20;24(3):408-18. doi: 10.1021/bc300519h. Epub 2013 Feb 11.

Site-specific PEGylation of human thyroid stimulating hormone to prolong duration of action.

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Biologics R&D, Genzyme Corporation, A Sanofi Company, Framingham, MA 01701, USA.


Recombinant human thyroid stimulating hormone (rhTSH or Thyrogen) has been approved for thyroid cancer diagnostics and treatment under a multidose regimen due to its short circulating half-life. To reduce dosing frequency, PEGylation strategies were explored to increase the duration of action of rhTSH. Lysine and N-terminal PEGylation resulted in heterogeneous product profiles with 40% or lower reaction yields of monoPEGylated products. Eleven cysteine mutants were designed based on a structure model of the TSH-TSH receptor (TSHR) complex to create unique conjugation sites on both α and β subunits for site-specific conjugation. Sequential screening of mutant expression level, oligomerization tendency, and conjugation efficiency resulted in the identification of the αG22C rhTSH mutant for stable expression and scale-up PEGylation. The introduced cysteine in the αG22C rhTSH mutant was partially blocked when isolated from conditioned media and could only be effectively PEGylated after mild reduction with cysteine. This produced a higher reaction yield, ~85%, for the monoPEGylated product. Although the mutation had no effect on receptor binding, PEGylation of αG22C rhTSH led to a PEG size-dependent decrease in receptor binding. Nevertheless, the 40 kDa PEG αG22C rhTSH showed a prolonged duration of action compared to rhTSH in a rat pharmacodynamics model. Reverse-phase HPLC and N-terminal sequencing experiments confirmed site-specific modification at the engineered Cys 22 position on the α-subunit. This work is another demonstration of successful PEGylation of a cysteine-knot protein by an engineered cysteine mutation.

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