In this study we describe optimization of polyethylenimine (PEI)-mediated transient production of recombinant protein by CHO cells by facile manipulation of a chemically defined culture environment to limit accumulation of nonproductive cell biomass, increase the duration of recombinant protein production from transfected plasmid DNA, and increase cell-specific production. The optimal conditions for transient transfection of suspension-adapted CHO cells using branched, 25 kDa PEI as a gene delivery vehicle were experimentally determined by production of secreted alkaline phosphatase reporter in static cultures and recombinant IgG4 monoclonal antibody (Mab) production in agitated shake flask cultures to be a DNA concentration of 1.25 μg 106 cells−1 mL−1 at a PEI nitrogen:DNA phosphate ratio of 20:1. These conditions represented the optimal compromise between PEI cytotoxicity and product yield with most efficient recombinant DNA utilization. Separately, both addition of recombinant insulin-like growth factor (LR3-IGF) and a reduction in culture temperature to 32 °C were found to increase product titer 2- and 3-fold, respectively. However, mild hypothermia and LR3-IGF acted synergistically to increase product titer 11-fold. Although increased product titer in the presence of LR3-IGF alone was solely a consequence of increased culture duration, a reduction in culture temperature post-transfection increased both the integral of viable cell concentration (IVC) and cell-specific Mab production rate. For cultures maintained at 32 °C in the presence of LR3-IGF, IVC and qMab were increased 4- and 2.5-fold, respectively. To further increase product yield from transfected DNA, the duration of transgene expression in cell populations maintained at 32 °C in the presence of LR3-IGF was doubled by periodic resuspension of transfected cells in fresh media, leading to a 3-fold increase in accumulated Mab titer from ∼13 to ∼39 mg L−1. Under these conditions, Mab glycosylation at Asn297 remained essentially constant and similar to that of the same Mab produced by stably transfected GS-CHO cells. From these data we suggest that the efficiency of transient production processes (protein output per rDNA input) can be significantly improved using a combination of mild hypothermia and growth factor(s) to yield an extended “activated hypothermic synthesis”.
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