Mass spectrometric evaluation of upstream and downstream process influences on host cell protein patterns in biopharmaceutical products

Biotechnol Prog. 2019 May;35(3):e2788. doi: 10.1002/btpr.2788. Epub 2019 Mar 6.


For production of different monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), biopharmaceutical companies often use related upstream and downstream manufacturing processes. Such platforms are typically characterized regarding influence of upstream and downstream process (DSP) parameters on critical quality attributes (CQAs). CQAs must be monitored strictly by an adequate control strategy. One such process-related CQA is the content of host cell protein (HCP) which is typically analyzed by immunoassay methods (e.g., HCP-ELISA). The capacity of the immunoassay to detect a broad range of HCPs, relevant for the individual mAb-production process should be proven by orthogonal proteomic methods such as 2D gel electrophoresis or mass spectrometry (MS). In particular MS has become a valuable tool to identify and quantify HCP in complex mixtures. We evaluate up- and DSP parameters of four different biopharmaceutical products, two different process variants, and one mock fermentation on the HCP pattern by shotgun MS analysis and ELISA. We obtained a similar HCP pattern in different cell culture fluid harvests compared to the starting material from the downstream process. During the downstream purification process of the mAbs, the HCP level and the number of HCP species significantly decreased, accompanied by an increase in diversity of the residual HCP pattern. Based on this knowledge, we suggest a control strategy that combines multi product ELISA for in-process control and release analytics, and MS testing for orthogonal HCP characterization, to attain knowledge on the HCP level, clusters and species. This combination supports a control strategy for HCPs addressing safety and efficacy of biopharmaceutical products.

Keywords: ELISA; biopharmaceuticals; host cell protein; mass spectrometry; proteomics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / genetics
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / isolation & purification*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / metabolism
  • CHO Cells / chemistry
  • CHO Cells / metabolism*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Fermentation
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteomics


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Proteins