Human Embryonic Kidney 293 Cells: A Vehicle for Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing, Structural Biology, and Electrophysiology

Cells Tissues Organs. 2018;205(1):1-8. doi: 10.1159/000485501. Epub 2018 Feb 1.


Mammalian cells, e.g., CHO, BHK, HEK293, HT-1080, and NS0 cells, represent important manufacturing platforms in bioengineering. They are widely used for the production of recombinant therapeutic proteins, vaccines, anticancer agents, and other clinically relevant drugs. HEK293 (human embryonic kidney 293) cells and their derived cell lines provide an attractive heterologous system for the development of recombinant proteins or adenovirus productions, not least due to their human-like posttranslational modification of protein molecules to provide the desired biological activity. Secondly, they also exhibit high transfection efficiency yielding high-quality recombinant proteins. They are easy to maintain and express with high fidelity membrane proteins, such as ion channels and transporters, and thus are attractive for structural biology and electrophysiology studies. In this article, we review the literature on HEK293 cells regarding their origins but also stress their advancements into the different cell lines engineered and discuss some significant aspects which make them versatile systems for biopharmaceutical manufacturing, drug screening, structural biology research, and electrophysiology applications.

Keywords: Biopharmaceutical products; Electrophysiology; HEK293 cells; Posttranslational modification; Structural biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Products / metabolism*
  • Drug Discovery
  • Electrophysiology*
  • HEK293 Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Biological Products
  • Proteins