We have developed an expression system for the production of large quantities of recombinant MUC1 mucin in CHO-K1 (Chinese-hamster ovary K1) cells. The extracellular part of human MUC1, including 16 MUC1 tandem repeats, was produced as a fusion protein with murine IgG Fc, with an intervening enterokinase cleavage site for the removal of the Fc tail. Stable MUC1–IgG-producing CHO-K1 clones were generated and were found to secrete MUC1–IgG into the culture medium. After adaptation to suspension culture in protein-free medium in a bioreactor, the fusion protein was secreted in large quantities (100 mg/l per day) into the culture supernatant. From there, MUC1 could be purified to homogeneity using a two-step procedure including enterokinase cleavage and ion-exchange chromatography. Capillary liquid chromatography MS of released oligosaccharides from CHO-K1-produced MUC1 identified the main O-glycans as Galβ1-3GalNAc (core 1) and mono- and di-sialylated core 1. The glycans occupied on average 4.3 of the five potential O-glycosylation sites in the tandem repeats, as determined by nano-liquid chromatography MS of partially deglycosylated Clostripain-digested protein. A very similar O-glycan profile and site occupancy was found in MUC1–IgG produced in the breast carcinoma cell line T47D, which has O-glycosylation typical for breast cancer. In contrast, MUC1–IgG produced in another breast cancer cell line, MCF-7, showed a more complex pattern with both core 1- and core 2-based O-glycans. This is the first reported production of large quantities of recombinant MUC1 with a breast cancer-like O-glycosylation that could be used for the immunotherapy of breast cancer.

Abbreviations used: TR, tandem repeat; mAb, monoclonal antibody; LC-ESI MS, liquid-chromatography electrospray-ionization MS; ESI-MS/MS, electrospray-ionization tandem MS; DELFIA, dissociation-enhanced lanthanide fluorescence immunoassay; PNA, peanut agglutinin; HPA, Helix pomatia agglutinin; WGA, wheatgerm agglutinin; CHO, Chinese-hamster ovary; i.d., inner diameter.

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