Increasingly high cell density, high product titer cell cultures containing mammalian cells are being used for the production of recombinant proteins. These high productivity cultures are placing a larger burden on traditional downstream clarification and purification operations due to higher product and impurity levels. Controlled flocculation and precipitation of mammalian cell culture suspensions by acidification or using polymeric flocculants have been employed to enhance clarification throughput and downstream filtration operations. While flocculation is quite effective in agglomerating cell debris and process related impurities such as (host cell) proteins and DNA, the resulting suspension is generally not easily separable solely using conventional depth filtration techniques. As a result, centrifugation is often used for clarification of cells and cell debris before filtration, which can limit process configurations and flexibility due to the investment and fixed nature of a centrifuge. To address this challenge, novel depth filter designs were designed which results in improved primary and secondary direct depth filtration of flocculated high cell density mammalian cell cultures systems feeds, thereby providing single-use clarification solution. A framework is presented here for optimizing the particle size distribution of the mammalian cell culture systems with the pore size distribution of the gradient depth filter using various pre-treatment conditions resulting in increased depth filter media utilization and improved clarification capacity. Feed conditions were optimized either by acidification or by polymer flocculation which resulted in the increased average feed particle-size and improvements in throughput with improved depth filters for several mammalian systems. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2013; 110: 1964–1972. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.