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Abstract

In mammalian cell culture technology glutamine is required for biomass synthesis and as a major energy source together with glucose. Different pathways for glutamine metabolism are possible, resulting in different energy output and ammonia release. The accumulation of ammonia in the medium can limit cell growth and product formation. Therefore, numerous ideas to reduce ammonia concentration in cultivation broths have been developed. Here we present new aspects on the energy metabolism of mammalian cells. The replacement of glutamine (2 mM) by pyruvate (10 mM) supported cell growth without adaptation for at least 19 passages without reduction in growth rate of different adherent commercial cell lines (MDCK, BHK21, CHO-K1) in serum-containing and serum-free media. The changes in metabolism of MDCK cells due to pyruvate uptake instead of glutamine were investigated in detail (on the amino acid level) for an influenza vaccine production process in large-scale microcarrier culture. In addition, metabolite profiles from variations of this new medium formulation (1–10 mM pyruvate) were compared for MDCK cell growth in roller bottles. Even at very low levels of pyruvate (1 mM) MDCK cells grew to confluency without glutamine and accumulation of ammonia. Also glucose uptake was reduced, which resulted in lower lactate production. However, pyruvate and glutamine were both metabolized when present together. Amino acid profiles from the cell growth phase for pyruvate medium showed a reduced uptake of serine, cysteine, and methionine, an increased uptake of leucine and isoleucine and a higher release of glycine compared to glutamine medium. After virus infection completely different profiles were found for essential and nonessential amino acids.