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Cell Cycle Progression in Serum-Free Cultures of Sf9 Insect Cells: Modulation by Conditioned Medium Factors and Implications for Proliferation and Productivity


  • This work was mainly conducted at the Department of Biotechnology, Royal Institute of Technology, and at Karo Bio AB.


Cell cycle progression was studied in serum-free batch cultures of Spodoptera frugiperda (Sf9) insect cells, and the implications for proliferation and productivity were investigated. Cell cycle dynamics in KBM10 serum-free medium was characterized by an accumulation of 50−70% of the cells in the G2/M phase of the cell cycle during the first 24 h after inoculation. Following the cell cycle arrest, the cell population was redistributed into G1 and in particular into the S phase. Maximum rate of proliferation (μN,max) was reached 24−48 h after the release from cell cycle arrest, coinciding with a minimum distribution of cells in the G2/M phase. The following declining μN could be explained by a slow increase in the G2/M cell population. However, at approximately 100 h, an abrupt increase in the amount of G2/M cells occurred. This switch occurred at about the same time point and cell density, irrespective of medium composition and maximum cell density. An octaploid population evolved from G2/M arrested cells, showing the occurrence of endoreplication in this cell line. In addition, conditioned medium factor(s) were found to increase μN,max, decrease the time to reach μN,max, and decrease the synchronization of cells in G2/M during the lag and growth phase. A conditioned medium factor appears to be a small peptide. On basis of these results we suggest that the observed cell cycle dynamics is the result of autoregulatory events occurring at key points during the course of a culture, and that entry into mitosis is the target for regulation. Infecting the Sf9 cells with recombinant baculovirus resulted in a linear increase in volumetric productivity of β-galactosidase up to 68−75 h of culture. Beyond this point almost no product was formed. Medium renewal at the time of infection could only partly restore the lost hypertrophy and product yield of cultures infected after the transition point. The critical time of infection correlated to the time when the mean population cell volume had attained a minimum, and this occurred 24 h before the switch into the G2/M phase. We suggest that the cell density dependent decrease in productivity ultimately depends on the autoregulatory events leading to G2/M cell cycle arrest.