Engineering host cell lines to reduce terminal sialylation of secreted antibodies

MAbs. Sep-Oct 2010;2(5):519-27. doi: 10.4161/mabs.2.5.13078. Epub 2010 Sep 1.


Covalently-linked glycans on proteins have many functional roles, some of which are still not completely understood. Antibodies have a very specific glycan modification in the Fc region that is required for mediating immune effector functions. These Fc glycans are typically highly heterogeneous in structure, and this heterogeneity is influenced by many factors, such as type of cellular host and rate of Ab secretion. Glycan heterogeneity can affect the Fc-dependent activities of antibodies. It has been shown recently that increased Fc sialylation can result in decreased binding to immobilized antigens and some Fcγ receptors, as well as decreased antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) activity. In contrast, increased Fc sialylation enhances the anti-inflammatory activity of antibodies. To produce antibodies with increased effector functions, we developed host cell lines that would limit the degree of sialylation of recombinantly-expressed antibodies. Towards this end, the catalytic domain of the Arthrobacter ureafaciens sialidase (sialidase A) was engineered for secreted expression in mammalian cell lines. Expression of this sialidase A gene in mammalian cells resulted in secreted expression of soluble enzyme that was capable of removing sialic acid from antibodies secreted into the medium. Purified antibodies secreted from these cells were found to possess very low levels of sialylation compared with the same antibodies purified from unmodified host cells. The low sialylated antibodies exhibited similar binding affinity to soluble antigens, improved ADCC activity, and they possessed pharmacokinetic properties comparable to their more sialylated counterparts. Further, it was observed that the amount of sialidase A expressed was sufficient to thoroughly remove sialic acid from Abs made in high-producing cell lines. Thus, engineering host cells to express sialidase A enzyme can be used to produce recombinant antibodies with very low levels of sialylation.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antibodies / genetics
  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Antibodies / metabolism*
  • Antibody-Dependent Cell Cytotoxicity / immunology
  • Arthrobacter / enzymology
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Glycosylation
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / metabolism*
  • Neuraminidase / genetics
  • Neuraminidase / metabolism*
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacokinetics
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Transfection


  • Antibodies
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments
  • Polysaccharides
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Neuraminidase
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid