Effects of glycosylation on the stability of protein pharmaceuticals

J Pharm Sci. 2009 Apr;98(4):1223-45. doi: 10.1002/jps.21504.


In recent decades, protein-based therapeutics have substantially expanded the field of molecular pharmacology due to their outstanding potential for the treatment of disease. Unfortunately, protein pharmaceuticals display a series of intrinsic physical and chemical instability problems during their production, purification, storage, and delivery that can adversely impact their final therapeutic efficacies. This has prompted an intense search for generalized strategies to engineer the long-term stability of proteins during their pharmaceutical employment. Due to the well known effect that glycans have in increasing the overall stability of glycoproteins, rational manipulation of the glycosylation parameters through glycoengineering could become a promising approach to improve both the in vitro and in vivo stability of protein pharmaceuticals. The intent of this review is therefore to further the field of protein glycoengineering by increasing the general understanding of the mechanisms by which glycosylation improves the molecular stability of protein pharmaceuticals. This is achieved by presenting a survey of the different instabilities displayed by protein pharmaceuticals, by addressing which of these instabilities can be improved by glycosylation, and by discussing the possible mechanisms by which glycans induce these stabilization effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Stability
  • Glycosylation
  • Models, Chemical
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry*
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Protein Denaturation
  • Protein Engineering*
  • Protein Stability
  • Proteins / chemistry*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Polymers
  • Polysaccharides
  • Proteins