Glucocorticoids are known to modulate various cellular functions such as cell proliferation, metabolism, glycosylation, and secretion of many proteins. We tested the effect of hydrocortisone (HC) on cell growth, viability, metabolism, protein production, and glycosylation of an Fc-protein expressing Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell culture. HC extended cell viability but impaired cell growth. The inhibitory effect on cell growth was dose-dependent and decreased when the glucocorticoid addition was delayed. When HC was added after 2 or 3 days of culture, an increase in glutamate consumption was observed, which was reversed by the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist mifepristone (Mif). Titer and specific productivity increased in the presence of HC. The increase in titer was only slightly reversed by Mif. On the other hand, Mif by itself induced an increase in titer to a level comparable to or higher than HC. Protein glycosylation was altered by the glucocorticoid in a dose- and time-dependent manner, with a shift to more acidic bands, which correlated with an increase in sialic acid moieties. This increase, which was not linked to a decrease in extracellular sialidase activity in HC-treated cultures, was reversed by Mif. Predictive models based on design of experiments enabled the definition of optimal conditions for process performance in terms of viability and titer and for the quality of the Fc-fusion protein in terms of glycosylation. The data obtained suggest a use of glucocorticoids for commercial production of Fc-fusion proteins expressed in CHO cells. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2012
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