Lin PC, Chan KF, Kiess IA, et al. Attenuated glutamine synthetase as a selection marker in CHO cells to efficiently isolate highly productive stable cells for the production of antibodies and other biologics. MAbs. 2019;11(5):965–976. doi:10.1080/19420862.2019.1612690
Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are the biopharmaceutical industry's primary means of manufacturing therapeutic proteins, including monoclonal antibodies. The major challenge in cell line development for the production of recombinant biopharmaceuticals lies in generating and isolating rare high-producing stable clones, amongst thousands of low-producing or unstable clones, in a short period of time. One approach to accomplish this is to use the glutamine synthetase (GS) selection system, together with the GS inhibitor, methionine sulfoximine (MSX). However, MSX can only increase protein productivity to a limited extent. Often productivity will drop when MSX is removed from the system. We evaluated a congenital GS mutation, R324C, which causes glutamine deficiency in human as an attenuated selection marker for CHO cell line generation. We also created a panel of GS mutants with diminished GS activity. Our results demonstrated that using attenuated GS mutants as selection markers significantly increased antibody production of stably transfected pools. Furthermore, these stably transfected pools sustained high productivity levels for an extended period of time, whereas cells transfected with wild-type GS lost considerable protein productivity over time, particularly after MSX was removed. In summary, the use of attenuated GS as a selection marker in CHO cell line development bypasses the need for MSX, and generates stable clones with significantly higher antibody productivity.Abbreviations: CHO: Chinese hamster ovary; CMV: Cytomegalovirus; DHFR: Dihydrofolate reductase; GFP: Green fluorescent protein; GOI: gene-of-interest; GS: Glutamine synthetase; IRES: internal ribosomal entry site; MSX: Methionine sulfoximine; MTX: Methotrexate; psGS: pseudoGS; RVDs: Repeated variable di-residues; TALENs: transcription activator-like effector nucleases; VCD: Viable cell density; ZFNs: zinc finger nucleases.
This work was supported by A*STAR BMRC Strategic Positioning Fund. The authors would like to thank Dr. Yun Lei Tan and Mr. Ryan Haryadi for critical review of the manuscript.