Proteolytic cleavage of recombinant human interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) expressed in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells during batch fermentation has been monitored by mass spectrometric peptide mapping. IFN-gamma was purified from cell-free culture supernatant by immunoaffinity chromatography and cleaved by endoprotease Asp-N. Peptide fragments were resolved by reverse-phase HPLC and identified by a combination of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry (MS) and automated N-terminal peptide sequencing. Using this approach, a peptide was identified as the C-terminal fragment of the IFN-gamma polypeptide. Analysis of this peptide by MS indicated that the recombinant IFN-gamma polypeptide secreted by CHO cells was truncated by at least ten amino acids, initially at Gln(133)-Met(134). No full length (143 amino acids) polypeptide molecules were observed at any stages of the fermentation. Additional proteolytic cleavages at basic amino acids N-terminal of Gln(133) occurred during the later stages of the culture resulting in a heterogeneous IFN-gamma polypeptide population with 'ragged' C-termini
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