Investigation of the role of the mTORC1 signalling pathway in growth and productivity of industrially-relevant GS-CHO cells

  • Nazanin Dadehbeigi

    Student thesis: Phd


    Understanding the molecular mechanisms that govern productivity and growth of recombinant host cells is essential to devise informed approaches to increase commercial viability and availability of biopharmaceuticals. This work has focused on the roles of the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signalling pathway in CHO cells, the most widely used expression system in the biopharmaceutical industry. mTORC1 is a master regulator of cell growth, protein synthesis and metabolism in response to availability of nutrients, oxygen and growth factors. Therefore, it was hypothesised that increased activity of mTORC1 enhances growth and productivity of recombinant CHO cells. The study of a recombinant GS-CHO cell line in the serum-free suspension batch culture indicated a gradual decrease in the activity of mTORC1, as defined by the decreased extent of site-specific phosphorylation of two widely ascribed downstream target proteins (ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1 (S6K1) and 4E-BP1, an inhibitor of translation initiation). The decline in the activity of mTORC1 paralleled decreased growth rate, recombinant protein specific productivity and global protein translation. To further clarify the role of the mTOR pathway in cell growth and protein production, cells in batch culture were treated with rapamycin, a specific inhibitor of mTORC1. Treatment with rapamycin stalled the growth of the CHO cell line transiently, but recombinant protein specific productivity, longevity of batch culture, and final antibody titre were greater than control. Rapamycin addition produced discriminating effects on downstream signalling targets, implicating distinct roles for these targets in control of growth and protein synthesis. Engineering the mTORC1 pathway by overexpression of specific components of this pathway (S6K1 and Rheb) generated increased growth and extended viability. Greater proliferation was not associated with improved productivity suggesting highly proliferative phenotypes that prioritise cell growth over synthesis and secretion of recombinant antibody in the recombinant GS-CHO cells examined. Therefore, the engineering of mTORC1 pathway may be beneficial to increase robustness or adaptation to stressed conditions (such as serum- free suspension growth, low nutrition availability and hypoxia).
    Date of Award1 Aug 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorAlan Dickson (Supervisor)


    • CHO, protein synthesis, mammalian target of rapamycin

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