This study shows that state-of-the-art liquid chromatography (LC) and mass spectrometry (MS) can be used for rapid verification of identity and characterization of sequence variants and posttranslational modifications (PTMs) for antibody products. A candidate biosimilar IgG1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) was compared in detail to a commercially available innovator product. Intact protein mass, primary sequence, PTMs, and the micro-differences between the two mAbs were identified and quantified simultaneously. Although very similar in terms of sequences and modifications, a mass difference observed by LC-MS intact mass measurements indicated that they were not identical.
Peptide mapping, performed with data independent acquisition LC-MS using an alternating low and elevated collision energy scan mode (LC-MSE), located the mass difference between the biosimilar and the innovator to a two amino acid residue variance in the heavy chain sequences. The peptide mapping technique was also used to comprehensively catalogue and compare the differences in PTMs of the biosimilar and innovator mAbs. Comprehensive glycosylation profiling confirmed that the proportion of individual glycans was different between the biosimilar and the innovator, although the number and identity of glycans were the same.
These results demonstrate that the combination of accurate intact mass measurement, released glycan profiling, and LC-MSE peptide mapping provides a set of routine tools that can be used to comprehensively compare a candidate biosimilar and an innovator mAb.