Institut Galien Paris Sud, UMR CNRS 8612, Protein and Nanotechnology in Analytical Science, CNRS, Univ. Paris-Sud, Univ. Paris-Saclay, 5 rue Jean-Baptiste Clément, 92290 Châtenay-Malabry, France. Electronic address: [Email]
Therapeutic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are complex glycoproteins and ensuring their safety, efficacy and quality is still challenging. Indeed, during their manufacturing process, they are exposed to several stresses that can lead to their denaturation, misfolding or dimerization. We report here a new method based on capillary electrophoresis coupled to native mass spectrometry (MS) with a sheath liquid interface to analyze an intact therapeutic mAb, Infliximab, under non-denaturing conditions that preserve its conformational heterogeneity as well as self-association without inducing further unfolding / denaturation. For capillary zone electrophoresis (CZE) separation, a triple layer coating using polybrene-dextran sulfate-polybrene was employed. A sheath liquid composed of isopropanol - water - acetic acid with a flow rate of 10 μL min-1 and mild MS conditions allowed optimal signal intensities. A specific mass spectrum was obtained for each Infliximab conformation in a "stressed" formulated preparation. This is the first time that within a single analysis different conformational states, i.e. native and unfolded monomers as well as dimers are simultaneously detected. The results and the lack of analytical bias arising from the CZE-MS conditions were confirmed by using atomic force microscopy (AFM) as an orthogonal technique. A middle-up approach combined to CZE-MS analysis of the stressed samples suggested that the dimer formation involved mostly Fab-Fab interactions.