Scientific reports

Evaluation and use of disaccharides as energy source in protein-free mammalian cell cultures.

PMID 28358044


Mammalian cells are generally considered to be unable to utilize polysaccharides for cell growth because the phospholipid bilayer in the cell membrane has very low permeability to sugars. With the recent discovery of the only known animal disaccharide transporter, a sucrose transporter, we considered the potential use of polysaccharides as energy source, because that can impact biopharmaceutical manufacturing by potentially increasing carbohydrate loading in the culture medium and decreasing lactate accumulation. In this study, we found that mammalian cells can utilize maltose for growth in the absence of glucose and successfully adapted CHO-K1, CHO-DG44 and HEK293 cells to grow in glucose-free, maltose-containing serum-free protein-free media. We then cultivated a non-adapted CHO-K1 producer cell line in media containing both glucose and maltose to show that the cells can utilize maltose in a biphasic manner, that maltose enters the cells, and that maltose utilization only took place in the presence of the cells. This is the first report of a protein-free mammalian cell culture using a disaccharide as energy source.