Biotechnology progress

The growth factor inhibitor suramin reduces apoptosis and cell aggregation in protein-free CHO cell batch cultures.

PMID 10835230


We have previously shown that Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells capable of growing in medium free of exogenous proteins die by apoptosis during all stages of a batch culture (Zanghi et al., 1999). On the basis of the hypothesis that extracellular death factors might be important in apoptosis under these conditions, we examined the effect of the growth factor inhibitor and antitumor agent suramin on CHO cell growth and apoptosis in serum-free culture. Suramin protected against apoptosis during exponential growth, as indicated by the absence of DNA laddering and an increase in cell viability from roughly 70% to above 95%. Suramin also effectively dispersed cell aggregates so that single-cell suspension culture was possible. However, suramin did not protect against apoptosis during the death phase, in contrast to serum, suggesting that antiapoptotic factors in the serum remain to be discovered. The increased viable cell yield following suramin supplementation resulted in a 40% increase in product yield, based on results with cells expressing recombinant secreted alkaline phosphatase. Polysulfated compounds dextran sulfate and polyvinyl sulfate worked nearly as well as suramin in dispersing cell clumps and increasing viable cell yield, which implies that suramin's high sulfate group density may be responsible for its effects in cell culture. In addition, suramin was beneficial for long-term adaptation of CHO cells to protein-free media suspension culture, and the compound was synergistic with insulin in accelerating this adaptation time.

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Poly(vinyl sulfate) potassium salt, average Mw ~170,000