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Expression of BHRF1 improves survival of murine hybridoma cultures in batch and continuous modes

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Cell death by apoptosis limits growth and productivity in most animal cell cultures. It is therefore desirable to define genetic interventions to generate robust cell lines with superior performance in bioreactors, either by increasing specific productivity, life-span of the cultures or both. In this context, forced expression of BHRF1, an Epstein–Barr virus-encoded early protein with structural and functional homology with the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2, effectively protected hybridomas in culture and delayed cell death under conditions of glutamine starvation. In the present study, we explored the potential application of BHRF1 expression in hybridomas for long-term apoptosis protection under different biotechnological process designs (batch and continuous) and compared it to strategies based on Bcl-2 overexpression. Our results confirmed that long-term maintenance of the anti-apoptotic effect of BHRF1 can be obtained using bicistronic configurations conferring enhanced protection compared to Bcl-2, even in the absence of selective pressure. Such protective effect of BHRF1 is demonstrated both in batch and continuous culture. Moreover, a further analysis at high cell densities in semi-continuous perfusion cultures indicated that the mechanism of action of BHRF1 involves cell cycle arrest in G0–G1 state and this is translated in lower numbers of dead cells.

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We thank Dr. H. Thomson for critical review of the manuscript. The present work has been developed in the framework of the “Centre de Referència en Biotecnologia” (Generalitat de Catalunya). SJ, JV, FG and JC were supported by “Plan Nacional de Biotecnología” (MEC, BIO2001-2000) and EP by “Plan Nacional de Investigación Científica, Desarrollo e Innovación Tecnológica” (MEC, BMC2003-02711).

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Correspondence to Francesc Gòdia.

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Juanola, S., Vives, J., Milián, E. et al. Expression of BHRF1 improves survival of murine hybridoma cultures in batch and continuous modes. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 83, 43–57 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-008-1820-8

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  • BHRF1
  • Hybridoma cells
  • Apoptosis protection