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Pharm Res. 2015 Jun;32(6):2072-85. doi: 10.1007/s11095-014-1600-3. Epub 2015 Jan 14.

Purification and identification of high molecular weight products formed during storage of neutral formulation of human insulin.

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Diabetes Protein Engineering, Novo Nordisk A/S, Novo Nordisk Park, 2760, Måløv, Denmark,



To identify High Molecular Weight Products (HMWP) formed in human insulin formulation during storage.


Commercial formulation of human insulin was stored at 37°C for 1 year and HMWP was isolated using preparative size exclusion chromatography (SEC) and reverse phase (RP) chromatography. The primary structure of the isolated species was analysed using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). To test the hypothesis that amino groups of insulin are involved in HMWP formation, the HMWP content of various formulations spiked with amine compounds or formulations of insulin with modified amino groups was measured.


More than 20 species of HMWP were observed and 16 species were identified using LC-MS. All identified species were covalent dimers of human insulin linked via A21Asn and B29Lys, formed via the formation of an anhydride intermediate at A21Asn. Two types of HMWP were identified, with the covalent link in the open or closed (succinimidyl) form. Some species also contained single deamidation at B3 or the desPhe(B1)-N-oxalyl-Val(B2) modification. Reduced rate of HMWP formation was observed after addition of L-lysine, L-arginine or piperazine or when insulin analogues with methylated N-terminals and side chain amines and A21Gly mutation were used. Formulations of human insulin without zinc and m-cresol were found to contain a different pool of HMWP.


HMWP formed in formulation of human insulin at pH 7.4 with zinc and m-cresol consists primarily of covalent dimers linked via A21Asn and B29Lys. Insulin formulation properties determine the amount and identity of formed HMWP.

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