Bicarbonate concentration and osmolality are key determinants in the inhibition of CHO cell polysialylation under elevated pCO2 or pH

James A. Zanghi, Albert E. Schmelzer, Thomas P. Mendoza, Richard H. Knop, William M Miller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Accumulation of CO2 in animal cell cultures can be a significant problem during scale-up and production of recombinant glycoprotein biopharmaceuticals. By examining the cell-surface polysialic acid (PSA) content, we show that elevated CO2 partial pressure (pCO2) can alter protein glycosylation. PSA is a high-molecular-weight polymer attached to several complex N-linked oligosaccharides on the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM), so that small changes in either core glycosylation or in polysialylation are amplified and easily measured. Flowcytometric analysis revealed that PSA levels on Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells decrease with increasing pCO2 in a dose-dependent manner, independent of any change in NCAM content. The results are highly pH-dependent, with a greater decrease in PSA at higher pH. By manipulating medium pH and pCO2, we showed that decreases in PSA correlate well with bicarbonate concentration ([HCO3/-]). In fact, it was possible to offset a 60% decrease in PSA content at 120 mm Hg pCO2 by decreasing the pH from 7.3 to 6.9, such that [HCO3/-] was lowered to that of control (38 mm Hg pCO2). When the increase in osmolality associated with elevated [HCO3/-] was offset by decreasing the basal medium [NaCl], elevated [HCO3/-] still caused a decrease in PSA, although less extensive than without osmolality control. By increasing [NaCl], we show that hyperosmolality alone decreases PSA content, but to a lesser extent than for the same osmolality increase due to elevated [NaHCO3]. In conclusion, we demonstrate the importance of pH and pCO2 interactions, and show that [HCO3/-] and osmolality can account for the observed changes in PSA content over a wide range of pH and pCO2 values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-191
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 20 1999


  • Bicarbonate
  • CO
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Cell culture
  • Chinese hamster ovary
  • Neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM)
  • Osmolality
  • Polysialylation
  • Sialic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


Dive into the research topics of 'Bicarbonate concentration and osmolality are key determinants in the inhibition of CHO cell polysialylation under elevated pCO2 or pH'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this