STUDY FOR THE MECHANISM OF PROTEIN SEPARATION IN REVERSED-PHASE LIQUID CHROMATOGRAPHY
Liquid chromatography coupling with mass spectrometry (LC/MS) plays an important role in pharmaceutical characterization because of its ability to separate, identify, and quantify individual compounds from the mixture. Polymer brush layer bonded to the silica surface is designed as a novel stationary phase to improve the LC resolution and MS compatibility. The polymer thickness can be controlled to shield the analyte from interacting with the active silanol on the surface and reduce peak tailing. The functional group of the polymer can be changed to tune the selectivity in different separation modes.
Two projects on LC/MS method development for biomolecule characterization using polymer-shell column are discussed in this work. In the first project, a polymer-shell column is used for disulfide bonds and free thiol subspecies identification, which is a major type of structural heterogeneities in IgG1. Compared with commercial columns, the polymer-shell column is able to resolve the free thiol variants without the presence of trifluoroacetic acid and greatly improve the MS signal. In the second project, a polymer-shell column is used for characterizing the drug-loading profile for antibody-drug-conjugates (ADC) via online LC/MS. The separation employs a mobile phase of 50 mM ammonium acetate to keep the ADC intact, and a gradient of water/isopropanol for ADC elution. MS data show that all ADC species remained intact and native on the column. Positional isomers can be separated and identified with the new method as well. Furthermore, to understand the surface chemistry and protein separation behavior quantitatively, a chromatographic simulation study is performed. The result shows that protein separation in RPLC can be described by a bi-Langmuir adsorption isotherm with mixed-mode retention of strong and weak sites. Smaller fractions and lower equilibrium constant of the strong site, which is the active silanol, give less tailing for protein separation.