Influenza vaccination is recognized as the most effective method for reducing morbidity and mortality due to seasonal influenza. To improve vaccine supply and to increase flexibility in vaccine manufacturing, cell culture-based vaccine production has emerged to overcome limitations of egg-based production. The switch of production system and the need for annual re-evaluation of vaccines for the effectiveness due to frequent viral antigenic changes call for methods for complete characterization of the hemagglutinin (HA) antigens and the final vaccine products. This study describes advanced liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) methods for simultaneous identification of HA proteins and process-related impurities in a trivalent influenza candidate vaccine, comprised of purified recombinant HA (rHA) antigens produced in an insect cell-baculovirus expression vector system (BEVS). N-linked glycosylation sites and glycoforms of the three rHA proteins (corresponding to influenza A subtypes H1N1 and H3N2 and B virus, respectively) were profiled by peptide mapping using reversed-phase (RP) LC-MSE (data independent acquisition LC-MS using an alternating low and elevated collision energy scan mode). The detected site-specific glycoforms were further confirmed and quantified by hydrophilic interaction LC (HILIC)-multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) assays. LC-MSE was used to characterize the vaccine candidate, providing both protein identities and site-specific information of glycosylation and degradations on each rHA protein. HILIC-MRM methodology was used for rapid confirming and quantifying site-specific glycoforms and potential degradations on each rHA protein. These methods can contribute to the monitoring of vaccine quality especially as it pertains to product comparability studies to evaluate the impact of production process changes.
Keywords: Insect cell - baculovirus expression vector system, degradation products, glycan analysis, hemagglutinin, impurity Proteins, LC-MS, N-linked glycosylation and glycoforms, recombinant influenza vaccine, peptide mapping and protein characterization, Influenza vaccination, cell culture-based vaccine production, egg-based production, hemagglutinin (HA) antigens, advanced liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), trivalent influenza candidate vaccine
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