Recombinant monoclonal antibodies produced using mammalian cell lines contain multiple chemical modifications. One specific modification resides on the C-terminus of the heavy chain. Enzymes inside the cell can cleave the C-terminal lysine from the heavy-chain molecules, and variants with and without C-terminal lysine can be produced. In order to fully characterize the protein, there is a need for analytical methods that are able to account for the different product variants. Conventional analytical methods used for the measurement of the distribution of the two different variants are based on chemical or enzymatic degradation of the protein followed by chromatographic separation of the degradation products. Chromatographic separations with gradient elution have long run times, and analyses of multiple samples are time-consuming. This paper reports development of a novel method for the determination of the relative amounts of the two C-terminal heavy-chain variants based on matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOFMS) measurements of the cyanogen bromide degraded recombinant monoclonal antibody products. The distribution of the variants is determined from the MALDI-TOF mass spectra by measuring the peak areas of the two C-terminal peptides. The assay was used for the assessment of the C-terminal lysine distribution in different development lots. The method was able to differentiate between the products obtained using the same cell line as well as between products obtained from different cell lines. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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