A strong tendency is currently emerging to remove not only serum but also any product of animal origin from animal cell culture media during production of recombinant proteins. This should facilitate downstream processing and improve biosafety. One way consists in the fortification of protein-free nutritive media with plant protein hydrolysates. To investigate the effects of plant peptones on mammalian cell cultivation and productivity, CHO 320 cells, a clone of CHO K1 cells genetically modified to secrete human interferon-γ (IFN-γ), were first adapted to cultivation in suspension in a protein-free medium. Both cell growth and IFN-γ secretion were found to be equivalent to those reached in serum-containing medium. Eight plant peptones, selected on the basis of their content in free amino acids and oligopeptides, as well as molecular weight distribution of oligopeptides, were tested for their ability to improve culture parameters. These were improved in the presence of three peptones, all having an important fraction of oligopeptides ranging from 1 to 10 kDa and a small proportion of peptides higher than 10 kDa. These peptones do not seem to add significantly to the nutritive potential to basal protein-free nutritive medium. Nevertheless, supplementation of an oligopeptide-enriched wheat peptone improved cell growth by up to 30% and IFN-γ production by up to 60% in shake-flask experiments. These results suggest that the use of plant peptones with potential growth factor–like or antiapoptotic bioactivities could improve mammalian cell cultivation in protein-free media while increasing the product biosafety.
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Vol. 39 • No. 7