Effects of osmoprotectant compounds on NCAM polysialylation under hyperosmotic stress and elevated pCO2

Albert E. Schmelzer, William M Miller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Elevated osmolality and pCO2 have been shown to alter sialylation in a protein-specific manner. In Chinese hamster ovary (CHO)MT2-1-8 cells, tPA sialylation changed only slightly from 40 to 250 mm Hg pCO2, whereas neural cell adhesion molecule polysialic acid (NCAM PSA) content decreased by up to 70% at 250 mm Hg pCO2, pH 7.2. NCAM PSA content also decreased with increasing NaCl or NH4Cl concentration. This suggests that PSA content is a sensitive indicator of conditions that may alter glycosylation. Amino acids and their derivatives have been used to protect hybridoma and CHO cell growth under hyperosmotic stress. We examined the impact of osmoprotectants on NCAM PSA content in CHO MT2-1-8 cells under hyperosmolality (up to 545 mOsm/kg) and at 195 and 250 mm Hg pCO2. NCAM PSA content at 545 mOsm/kg was at least two-fold greater in the presence of glycine betaine or L-proline compared to that without osmoprotectant. Surprisingly, in the presence of 20 mM glycine betaine, PSA levels were 50-60% of the control level for osmolalities ranging from 320 to 545 mOsm/kg. Thus, glycine betaine inhibits NCAM polysialylation at osmolalities below 435 mOsm/kg and is beneficial at higher osmolalities. In contrast to glycine betaine, L-proline increased PSA content by 25-120% relative to the unprotected culture at ≤545 mOsm/kg. The decrease in NCAM PSA levels of CHO MT2-1-8 cells cultured at 195 mm Hg pCO2-435 mOsm/kg was not mitigated by the presence of 25 mM glycine betaine, glycine, or L-threonine, even though all of these compounds enhanced cell growth. At 250 mm Hg pCO2, all osmoprotectants tested (20 mM L-threonine, L-proline, glycine, or glycine betaine) increased NCAM polysialylation, with 20 mM glycine betaine restoring NCAM PSA to near control levels. Thus, osmoprotectants may (partially) offset changes in glycosylation, as well as the inhibition of growth, in cells under environmental stress. Supernatant β-galactosidase levels, which increase upon alkalization of acidic organelles, did not differ significantly under elevated pCO2 and hyperosmolality from that at control conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-368
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2002


  • Carbon dioxide
  • NCAM
  • Osmolality
  • Osmoprotectant
  • Polysialylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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