Host cell proteins (HCPs) constitute a major group of impurities for biologic drugs produced using cell culture technology. HCPs are required to be closely monitored and adequately removed in the downstream process. However, HCPs are a complex mixture of proteins with significantly diverse molecular and immunological properties. An overall understanding of the composition of HCPs and changes in their molecular properties upon changes in upstream and harvest process conditions can greatly facilitate downstream process design. This article describes the use of a comparative proteomic profiling method viz. two-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis (2D-DIGE) to examine HCP composition in the harvest stream of CHO cell culture. The effect of upstream process parameters such as cell culture media, bioreactor control strategy, feeding strategy, and cell culture duration/cell viability on HCP profile was examined using this technique. Among all the parameters studied, cell viability generated the most significant changes on the HCP profile. 2D-DIGE was also used to compare the HCP differences between monoclonal antibody producing and null cell cultures. The HCP species in production cell culture was found to be well represented in null cell culture, which confirms the suitability of using the null cell culture for immunoassay reagent generation. 2D-DIGE is complimentary to the commonly used HCP immunoassay. It provides a direct comparison of the changes in HCP composition under different conditions and can reveal properties (pI, MW) of individual species, whereas the immunoassay sensitively quantifies total HCP amount in a given sample. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2010; 105: 306–316. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.