Mariati, Yeo, J. H. M., Koh, E. Y. C., Ho, S. C. L. and Yang, Y. (2014), Insertion of core CpG island element into human CMV promoter for enhancing recombinant protein expression stability in CHO cells. Biotechnol Progress, 30: 523–534. doi: 10.1002/btpr.1919
The human cytomegalovirus promoter (hCMV) is susceptible to gene silencing in CHO cells, most likely due to epigenetic events, such as DNA methylation and histone modifications. The core CpG island element (IE) from the hamster adenine phosphoribosyltransferase gene has been shown to prevent DNA methylation. A set of modified hCMV promoters was developed by inserting one or two copies of IE in either forward or reverse orientations either upstream of the hCMV enhancer, between the enhancer and core promoter (CP), or downstream of the CP. The modified hCMV with one copy of IE inserted between the enhancer and core promoter in reverse orientation (MR1) was most effective at enhancing expression stability without compromising expression level when compared with the wild-type (WT) hCMV. A third of 18 EGFP expressing clones generated using MR1 retained 70% of their starting expression level after 8 weeks of culture in the absence of selection pressure, while none of 18 WT hCMV generated clones had expression above 50%. MR1 also improved antibody expression stability of methotrexate (MTX) amplified CHO cell lines. Stably transfected pools generated using MR1 maintained 62% of their original monoclonal antibody titer after 8 weeks of culture in the absence of MTX, compared to only 37% for WT hCMV pools. Low levels of CpG methylation within both WT hCMV and MR1 were observed in all the analyzed cell lines and the methylation levels did not correlate to the expression stability, suggesting IE enhances expression stability by other mechanisms other than preventing methylation.