FabRICATOR® in complete characterization of seven therapeutic monoclonal antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies (mAb) are used in various treatments and new potential targets continue to arise. To ensure a high specificity of the antibody to the intended antigen each mAb needs to be well characterized since they are often heterogeneous. In this paper, Giorgetti et al. combined bottom-up, middle-level and intact level analysis to get the complete structure of seven mAbs with worldwide approval. For the middle-level analysis, FabRICATOR digestion followed by a reduction step was the preferred approach.


On-line capillary electrophoresis-electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (CE-ESI-MS) compatible with all three levels of analysis was used for the characterization. The overall heterogeneity and high mass post-translational modifications (PTMs) were determined at the intact level. Confirming the results, the middle-level approach expanded on this with more advanced PTM data and information about the backbone structure. Finally, bottom-up analysis provided the precise location of the PTMs and the relative quantity of micro-heterogeneities in the proteoforms. However, while bottom-up data provided the most detailed information it required the most sample preparation which might lead to artifacts. The intact and middle-level analysis avoided this problem. Therefore, the research group suggested that a combination of the three levels efficiently analyzed with CE-ESI-MS was ideal for a representative, complete characterization of the structure of the mAbs.


For middle-level analysis the mAbs were digested with FabRICATOR yielding F(ab)’2 and Fc/2 fragments of about 100 kDa and 25 kDa. This allowed PTMs such as methionine oxidation and lysine clipping to be observed. The N-glycan profile was also determined. Reduction of the F(ab)’2 fragment to light chain (LC) and Fd fragments further reduced complexity to make small PTMs such as asparagine deamidation detectable. In addition, the speed and efficiency along with the high accuracy was appreciated by the researchers.



Giorgetti et al., 2020. Combination of intact, middle-up and bottom-up levels to characterize 7 therapeutic monoclonal antibodies by capillary electrophoresis – Mass spectrometry.  Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis. 2020, 182, 113107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpba.2020.113107