Articles in the Category ”Applications”

SmartEnzymes™ in a new approach to characterize ADCs

October 25, 2019 | Applications, References |

Antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) consist of monoclonal antibodies chemically linked to a cytotoxic agent. The target specificity of the monoclonal antibody in combination with the potency of the cytotoxic drug make ADCs promising therapeutic agents. However, the molecules are often complex, making evaluation of the quality attributes for the ADC challenging.


In order to characterize the ADCs, the predominant analysis of choice is peptide mapping with reversed-phase liquid chromatography (RPLC) coupled to mass spectrometry. However, the sample preparation steps in a bottom-up approach are often time-consuming and a comprehensive view of ADCs with different sequence variants and post-translational modifications is lacking.


In this recently published article by Chen et al., a middle-down RPLC-MS strategy with electron transfer disscociation (ETD) was developed to analyze lysine and cysteine conjugated ADCs at the subunit level. FabRICATOR® (IdeS) and GingisKHAN® (KGB) were used to generate the subunits. FabRICATOR digests below the hinge, generating F(ab’)2 and Fc/2 fragments, and GingisKHAN digests above the hinge, generating intact Fab and Fc fragments. For the deglycosylation, the IgG-specific endoglycosidase GlycINATOR® (EndoS2) was used.


This middle-down approach enabled high-resolution evaluation of several ADC quality attributes at the subunit level, including drug to antibody ratio (DAR), conjugation sites and micro-variants. The approach shows great potential for investigating quality attributes during the development and characterization of novel ADCs.


Read more about FabRICATOR, GingisKHAN and GlycINATOR.


Chen, B et al., 2019. Middle-Down Multi-Attribute Analysis of Antibody-Drug Conjugates with Electron Transfer Dissociation. Anal. Chem. 91(18). 11661-11669.

Characterizing ADCs using FabRICATOR and middle-down MS

September 24, 2019 | Applications, Products |

The process of characterizing an antibody drug conjugate (ADC) requires the evaluation of critical quality attributes including primary sequence analysis and drug conjugation assessment. Addressing glycoprofile determination as well as drug load distribution and drug-to-antibody ratio (DAR) is however challenging using peptide mapping. In addition, further challenges arise from the increased hydrophobicity of the ADC and the risk of drug-linker dissociation in an MS/MS experiment.


In an article by Hernandez-Alba et al. (2019) the authors characterized a site-specific ADC using middle-down MS. They combined three different fragmentation strategies for improved sequence coverage and drug conjugation assessment. The site-specific ADC (DAR=4) was digested using FabRICATOR and reduced to generate homogenous Fc/2, Fd’ and LC fragments for analysis by multiple ion activation techniques. By combining MS/MS data obtained with HDC (hydrodynamic chromatography), ETD (electron-transfer dissociation) and UVPD (ultraviolet photodissociation) fragmentation modes, the scientists obtained valuable information with the advantages of minimal sample preparation and analysis time using middle-down MS. 


The UVPD mode showed better performance compared to ETD and HDC. This indicated that the performance of this activation technique was unaffected by the hydrophobicity of the ADC. The complementarity between UVPD and ETD was further highlighted for drug conjugation assessment by allowing primary sequence validation and accurate identification of drug conjugation and glycosylation sites. These results highlight the potential of middle-down MS as a complement in next-generation strategies for the characterization of  mAb-based compounds including ADCs. 


Read more about FabRICATOR and Applications of FabRICATOR.


Hernandez-Alba, O. et al., 2019. A Case Study to Identify the Drug Conjugation Site of a Site-Specific Antibody-Drug-Conjugate using Middle-Down Mass Spectrometry. American Society for Mass Spectrometry, 30(8). pp. 1-11. 

Improved antibody-PET tracers for in vivo imaging with GlyCLICK®

Radioactively labelled antibodies are excellent immuno-PET tracers for evaluating in vivo distribution and performance of therapuetic agents. Site-specific conjugation at the antibody Fc glycan site by enzymatic remodeling allows for a uniform label distribution of such PET-tracers, compared to conjugates generated with conventional random labelling strategies.

In an article by Kristensen et al. (2019), the authors evaluated the stability, immunoreactivity and in vivo biodistribution of the radioactively labelled mAb Trastuzumab (Herceptin). Using GlyCLICK, the antibody was enzymatically modified with GlycINATOR (EndoS2) and conjugated with a DIBO-DFO chelator prior to 89Zr radioactive labelling. Comparing the GlyCLICK technology with ß-galactosidase remodelled conjugates and two random labelling techniques, the authors obtained valuable data on the overall performance of the various PET-tracers.

Antibodies subjected to site-specific labelling showed significantly increased in vitro stability and immunoreactivity compared to randomly labeled Trastzumab. Furthermore, using in vivo immuno-PET imaging, these conjugates also displayed superior tumor-targeting properties based on the successful detection of HER2-positive tumors in mouse models. These results highlight the advantages of site-specific antibody conjugation.
For more information on GlyCLICK please visit

Kristensen, L. et al., 2019. Site-specifically labeled 89Zr-DFO-trastuzumab improves immuno-reactivity and tumor uptake for immuno-PET in a subcutaneous HER2-positive xenograft mouse model. Theranostics, 9(15). pp.4409-4420.

Free Thiols using FabRICATOR® and FabALACTICA®

In biopharmaceutical product development and manufacturing, free thiol content is one of the product quality attributes of interest as its presence could impact structure, stability and function of the product.

At Biogen, Yi Pu et al have optimized a label-free LC (UV) / MS method for free thiol quantification at a subunit level of IgG1 and IgG4. The new method, which is based on a method developed by Faid et al*, was compared to two conventional approaches, Ellman’s assay and peptide mapping.

It is very challenging to identify free thiol forms by mass spectrometry at the intact antibody level. By combining the highly specific proteolytic enzymes FabALACTICA (IgdE) and FabRICATOR (IdeS) the authors generated the subunits Fab, hinge and Fc/2, suited for confident mass determination. The subunits were subsequently separated on a polyphenyl reversed phase column in order to separate free thiol forms from their corresponding disulphide bond-linked form. A baseline or near baseline separation was obtained making it possible to calculate the free thiol content on each subunit.

The result of the quantification of free thiols from all three methods were comparable and showed similar trends even though the peptide mapping approach generally gave a higher free thiol content.

The authors conclude that compared to Ellman’s assay, the subunit approach is more sensitive, requires less sample and provides domain-specific information of the free thiol content. Compared to peptide mapping, the subunit method is faster, less labour intensive and lacks dependence on labelling efficiency. Finally, it demonstrated promise in the quantification of free thiols in a high throughput manner with domain specific information available.

The developed method has successfully been applied to several in-house IgG1 mAbs with different hydrophobicity and isoelectric points.


*V. Faid Y. Leblanc N. Bihoreau G. Chevreux Middle-up analysis of monoclonal antibodies after combined IgdE and IdeS hinge proteolysis: Investigation of free sulfhydryls, J. Pharm. Biomed. Anal. 149 (2018) 541-546,


For more information on FabRICATOR and FabALACTICA please visit the following pages:

The full text paper is available online:

FabRICATOR, SialEXO and OglyZOR in Middle-up HILIC/HRMS Approach



In an article by Valentina D’Atri et al. recently published in Analytical Chemistry (2019), the scientists developed a middle-up HILIC/HRMS workflow for detailed characterisation of the Fc fusion protein etanercept.  The etanercept molecule consists of an IgG1 Fc domain fused to a tumour necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) and is used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The protein is highly glycosylated and contains numerous O- and N-glycosylation sites that require extensive characterization.


To develop a strategy that would work with a mass spec instrument of limited resolution, the authors used FabRICATOR enzyme to specifically digest the etanercept molecule and generate TNFR and Fc/2 subunits. Combinations of the O- and N- glycosidases SialEXO, OglyZOR and PNGaseF were applied to allow evaluation of the O- and N-glycosylation patterns of TNFR and Fc/2 respectively. In addition, complete deglycosylation allowed for primary structure analysis. By using a wide-pore HILIC stationary phase, appropriate separation of the subunits with different degrees of remaining glycans was achieved, and this significantly facilitated spectra deconvolution.


Applying this workflow, D’Atri and colleagues were able to assess the main PTMs, the subunit distribution of glycans, the overall N/O glycan composition and the sialylation profiles of each subunit.


Read more about the SmartEnzymes in this publication



D’Atri, V. et al., 2018. Orthogonal Middle-up Approaches for Characterization of the Glycan Heterogeneity of Etanercept by Hydrophilic Interaction Chromatography Coupled to High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry. Analytical Chemistry, 91(1), pp.873–880.

OpeRATOR Publication from Johns Hopkins University

Scientists from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have used OpeRATOR to develop a workflow to map O-glycosylated sites on proteins in very complex samples. O-glycoproteins are notoriously difficult to study due to the low abundance, high structural heterogeneity and low stability. Previous approaches using affinity enrichment or engineered cell culture systems either lack efficiency or are ill-suited forO-glycoproteomic studies of complex samples.

In the workflow developed by Weiming Yang and colleagues, protein samples such as serum or kidney tissue were digested with trypsin, immobilized onto beads through the N-terminus and treated with OpeRATOR and SialEXO. OpeRATOR is an endoprotease and derived from the gut commensal bacteria Akkermansia muciniphila that specifically cleaves peptides and proteins N-terminally of O-glycosylated serine or threonine residues. Therefore, only O-glycopeptides are released from the solid support and were identified using ETD mass spectrometry.

Using this workflow, Yang et al. were able to map over 3000 O-glycosylation sites from human serum, T cells and kidney tissue, almost doubling the number of known O-glycosylation sites. They were also able to detect and quantify the aberrant O-glycosylation patterns in kidney tumors, showcasing the potential use of such methodologies for both basic research and diagnostic purposes.


Meet the Scientist

We got the opportunity to interview the first author of the paper, Weiming Yang at Johns Hopkins University.


Weiming Yang

Tell us about yourself?
I am a Research Associate in Mass Spectrometry Core Facility in the Center for Biomarker Discovery and Translation ( of the Johns Hopkins University. The Mass Spectrometry Core Facility carries large-scale proteomics with particular emphasis on protein glycosylation on proteome scale to elucidate functions of glycoproteins on biology and disease. Before this position, I was a postdoc fellow in the same lab and worked on innovative glycoproteomics methods and HIV research. My interest in protein O-linked glycosylation started from every beginning at Hopkins that I was able to identify an O-linked glycosylation site in HIV gp120 from the infectious virion. Later on, I developed a series of glycoproteomic methods to study protein N- and O-linked glycosylation. The development of novel glycoproteomic methodologies led to new areas toward the discovery of the biomarker for HIV reservoir and new insight into cancer biology.


What is new with the ExoO method you have developed?
The major advantage of EXoO is its applicability to analyze clinical samples that is a breakthrough and central to reveal the significance of protein O-linked glycosylation in diseases. Using EXoO, now, scientists can start to gain new insight into their biological systems regarding O-linked glycoproteins. O-linked glycoproteins are ubiquitous on the cell surface and extracellular environment that is highly relevant to new treatment for diseases and diagnostics. Also, the EXoO is advantageous to analyze mucin-type O-linked glycoproteins that cannot be easily analyzed by conventional methods. The EXoO method identifies a large number of O-linked glycosylation sites in the sample that may be easily identified by using other methods such as various enrichments coupled with ETD-MS/MS.


How did you perform the analysis prior to this method?
We tried to use the same solid phase method to immobilize the peptides but released O-glycopeptides using beta-elimination to study site of protein O-linked glycosylation. Beta-elimination is a chemical reaction that can tag the site of protein O-linked glycosylation but give some background release of peptides from the solid support. We tried ETD-MS/MS for O-linked glycopeptide analysis but the number of identification is lower than the use of the current method using EXoO to release the O-glycopeptides.


What are the benefits of applying Operator in the workflow?
The OpeRATOR enzyme is a key component in the workflow. The high specificity of OpeRATOR enabled release of site-specific O-linked glycopeptides from solid phase support. Therefore, the resulting glycopeptides are relatively pure for improved identification.


What can you tell us about what you currently are working on?
Currently, we are applying the method to study different diseases including cancers and HIV reservoir.


How would you describe the impact of OpeRATOR on the O-glycan field?
The discovery of OpeRATOR changes of the game in the field of O-linked glycoproteomics. It makes the analysis of large-scale and site-specific O-linked glycoproteome in clinical samples feasible. For O-glycans, the specificity of OpeRATOR is not completely clear that will need further investigation. O-glycans have many different structures. The glycomic methods may still be the best way to go.


What are your thoughts on the future of O-glycan analysis?
EXoO and OpeRATOR provide unique research tools to identify the site of O-linked glycosylation. So far, the evidence supports that core 1 Gal-GalNAc structure can be studied by the use of OpeRATOR. Glycomic method focus on the identification of all different O-glycan structures with linkage and quantitative information. In the future, the structures of O-linked glycans on the specific sites on the proteins can be revealed in a single workflow.



For more information on OpeRATOR go the the following pages:


The full text paper is available online:

SmartEnzymes™ in Multiplexed Middle-Down MS for targeted structure analysis



 In a recent article by Srzentic et al. (2018) the authors present a multiplexed middle-down MS workflow with improved performance for targeted protein structure analysis. Using GingisKHAN for antibody digestion, the authors analysed the F(ab) subunits of a therapeutic mAb. By implementing spectral and transient averaging of mass spectra across several LC-MS experiments, the authors revealed valuable information on chain pairing in the mAb.


To make the analysis, the therapeutic mAb trastuzumab was digested above the hinge using the GingisKHAN enzyme to generate intact F(ab) subunits. Intact myoglobin was subjected to analysis in a top-down MS approach to benchmark the workflow. The GingisKHAN-generated F(ab) subunits were then analysed using the middle-down MS workflow to compare the performance of data averaging approaches.


The results show the performances of spectral and transient averaging for tandem mass spectra as separate software tools for structural protein analysis. The transient averaging provided the most extensive sequence coverage for the F(ab) subunits, followed by spectral averaging. Furthermore, utilizing the multiplexed middle-down MS workflow for subunit analysis, the authors detected low-abundance branched product ions revealing valuable information about the light and heavy chain connectivity.


GingisKHAN® (Kgp enzyme) is a cysteine protease that digests human IgG1 at a specific site above the hinge region. The enzyme generates intact Fc and Fab subunits in 60 minutes.

Learn more about GingisKHAN

Srzentic et al., 2018. Multiplexed Middle-Down Mass Spectrometry Reveals Light and Heavy Chain Connectivity in a Monoclonal Antibody

Antibody Sequence Analysis using GingisKHAN® and FabRICATOR®

September 28, 2018 | Applications, References |

  In an article by Luca Fornelli & Kristina Srzentic et al. recently published in Analytical Chemistry the authors present a workflow for antibody sequence determination by combining top-down and middle-down LC/MS. The authors analyzed the therapeutic antibody rituximab in its intact and fragmented form, using FabRICATOR and GingisKHAN to generate antibody subunits. By combining the performance of multiple ion activation techniques and a new software tool with top-level and middle-level strategies, the authors achieved extensive sequence coverage and obtained valuable information on key quality attributes.

  Rituximab was fragmented using members of the SmartEnzymes™ family for the generation of various antibody subunits. GingisKHAN was used for generating intact Fc and Fab subunits by site-specific cleavage of IgG1 above the hinge region. In order to obtain antibody subunits Fc/2, Fd and LC the authors used FabRICATOR-digestion followed by reduction. The intact antibody and the antibody subunits were analyzed using reversed phase LC/MS coupled with three separate ion activation techniques, and analyzed using a new software tool for fragment ion deconvolution.

  The complementing features of the ion activation techniques provided high quality information for a low number of LC/MS experiments. The authors achieved sequence coverage equivalent to what is obtainable with bottom-up strategies. In addition, the authors were able to analyze quality attributes such as PTMs, chain pairing and intact antibody mass determination – properties otherwise lost after extended proteolysis. These results highlight the benefits of combining top-level and middle-level strategies for applications currently performed by bottom-level strategies.

GingisKHAN® (Kgp enzyme) is a cysteine protease that digests human IgG1 at a specific site above the hinge region. The enzyme generates intact Fc and Fab subunits in 60 minutes.

Learn more about GingisKHAN

Fornelli et. al., 2018. Accurate Sequence Analysis of a Monoclonal Antibody by Top-Down and Middle-Down Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry Applying Multiple Ion Activation Techniques.

FabRICATOR® in service for in-depth 2D-LC MS profiling of therapeutic mAbs


In an article by Stroll et al. (2018), the authors demonstrate a striking in-depth characterization of three therapeutic mAbs, achieved by combining FabRICATOR® (IdeS) digestion with an online two-dimensional LC-MS approach. The authors generate a highly resolved separation and detection of FabRICATOR-digested N-glycosylated mAb subunits by implementing Active Solvent Modulation (ASM), a method for valve-based effluent dilution between the first and second dimension separations.

Multidimensional Liquid Chromatography constitutes a powerful technology for in-depth profiling of therapeutic proteins, capable of generating rapid and highly resolved separations. The authors demonstrate the advantages of implementing ASM in an online 2D-LC system for deep profiling of antibody glycosylations, subjecting mAbs to FabRICATOR digestion followed by HILIC x RP separation and ESI Mass Spectrometry (ESI-MS) detection.

Three therapeutic antibodies displaying diverse N-glycosylation patterns were submitted to digestion using FabRICATOR for a single site-specific proteolytic cleavage below the hinge, generating Fc/2 and F(ab’)2 fragments. Further reduction of the interchain disulphide bonds of the F(ab’)2 subunit was carried out on the FabRICATOR-digested samples for the additional generation of LC and Fd fragments.

Implementing the ASM method on antibody subunits, the authors achieved a significant increase in detection sensitivity for Fc/2 and Fd fragments, without detectable breakthrough, otherwise associated with larger loading volumes in the second-dimension separation. Furthermore, the authors demonstrated the resolving power of HILIC x RP for analyzing the extent of glycosylations present in heavily glycosylated mAbs, the method showing increased separation and detection for both high and low abundant glycan species, compared to 2D-LC combining CEX and RP separations.

FabRICATOR is a protease with a single digestion site below the hinge of IgG. The enzyme is widely used in middle-level analytical workflows for characterization of antibody based biopharmaceuticals.

Learn more about FabRICATOR

Stoll, D.R. et al., 2018. Development of Comprehensive Online Two-Dimensional Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry using Hydrophilic Interaction and Reversed-Phase Separations for Rapid and Deep Profiling of Therapeutic Antibodies. Analytical Chemistry, pp.acs.analchem.8b00776–9.

OpeRATOR™ Decodes O-glycans; Publication by FDA and Genovis

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 23.59.42


Scientist at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, have, in collaboration with Genovis, developed a method for analyzing O-glycosylated proteins based on a solid phase chemical modification and followed by OpeRATOR digestion. Using this method, up to 8-fold more O-glycosites were discovered as compared to previously reported data.


The method uses an on-bead system to capture tryptic peptides deglycosylated using PNGaseF from a glycoprotein mixture. First, the tryptic peptides are bound via the N-terminus to the beads, and subsequent modifications to the sugars can be carried out. Secondly, the OpeRATOR enzyme is applied to digest the peptide bond, N-terminal of the O-glycosylated serine or threonine. In this way, only O-glycosylated peptides will be cleaved off and enriched. The OpeRATOR digested peptides were then analyzed using LC-MS/MS.


OpeRATOR was launched at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2017 and the FDA team quickly became interested in this novel tool. The enzyme originates from Akkermansia muciniphila and has been engineered by Genovis for biotech applications and analytical workflows and denoted OpeRATOR. The enzyme binds to musin type O-glycans and cuts the protein backbone, N-terminally of the O-glycosylated site. OpeRATOR can be used to study site occupancy and composition of O-glycans on biopharmaceuticals and for O-glycomic workflows.


We establish the method on standard glycoproteins, confirming known O- glycosites with high accuracy and confidence, and reveal up to 8-fold more glycosites than previously reported with concomitant increased heterogeneity” (Shuang et al 2018)


The paper has been selected Editor’s choice in Analytical Chemistry and is available using the link below:


Shuang Yang et al., “Deciphering Protein O‑Glycosylation: Solid-Phase Chemoenzymatic Cleavage and Enrichment,” Analytical Chemistry, June 3, 2018, 1–9, doi:10.1021/acs.analchem.8b01834.


More information on OpeRATOR and its applications: