Development of a CHO-Based Cell-Free Platform for Synthesis of Active Monoclonal Antibodies

Rey W. Martin, Natalia I. Majewska, Cindy X. Chen, Thomas E. Albanetti, Rod Brian C. Jimenez, Albert E. Schmelzer, Michael C. Jewett*, Varnika Roy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells are routinely optimized to stably express monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) at high titers. At the early stages of lead isolation and optimization, hundreds of sequences for the target protein of interest are screened. Typically, cell-based transient expression technology platforms are used for expression screening, but these can be time- and resource-intensive. Here, we have developed a cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) platform utilizing a commercially available CHO extract for the rapid in vitro synthesis of active, aglycosylated mAbs. Specifically, we optimized reaction conditions to maximize protein yields, established an oxidizing environment to enable disulfide bond formation, and demonstrated the importance of temporal addition of heavy chain and light chain plasmids for intact mAb production. Using our optimized platform, we demonstrate for the first time to our knowledge the cell-free synthesis of biologically active, intact mAb at >100 mg/L using a eukaryotic-based extract. We then explored the utility of our system as a tool for ranking yields of candidate antibodies. Unlike stable or transient transfection-based screening, which requires a minimum of 7 days for setup and execution, results using our CHO-based CFPS platform are attained within 2 days and it is well-suited for automation. Further development would provide a tool for rapid, high-throughput prediction of mAb expression ranking to accelerate design-build-test cycles required for antibody expression and engineering. Looking forward, the CHO-based CFPS platform could facilitate the synthesis of toxic proteins as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1370-1379
Number of pages10
JournalACS synthetic biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 21 2017


  • Chinese Hamster Ovary
  • antibody ranking tool
  • cell-free protein synthesis
  • monoclonal antibody
  • synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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