High sensitivity LC-MS profiling of antibody-drug conjugates with difluoroacetic acid ion pairing

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Reversed-phase liquid chromatography (RPLC) separations of proteins using optical detection generally use trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) because it is a strong, hydrophobic acid and a very effective ion-pairing agent for minimizing chromatographic secondary interactions. Conversely and in order to avoid ion suppression, analyses entailing mass spectrometry (MS) detection is often performed with a weaker ion-pairing modifier, like formic acid (FA), but resolution quality may be reduced. To gain both the chromatographic advantages of TFA and the enhanced MS sensitivity of FA, we explored the use of an alternative acid, difluoroacetic acid (DFA). This acid modifier is less acidic and less hydrophobic than TFA and is believed to advantageously affect the surface tension of electrospray droplets. Thus, it is possible to increase MS sensitivity threefold by replacing TFA with DFA. Moreover, we have observed DFA ion pairing to concomitantly produce higher chromatographic resolution than FA and even TFA. For this reason, we prepared and used MS-quality DFA in place of FA and TFA in separations involving IdeS digested, reduced NIST mAb and a proprietary antibody-drug conjugate (ADC), aiming to increase sensitivity, resolution and protein recovery. The resulting method using DFA was qualified and applied to two other ADCs and gave heightened sensitivity, resolution and protein recovery versus analyses using TFA. This new method, based on a purified, trace metal free DFA, can potentially become a state-of-the-art liquid chromatography-MS technique for the deep characterization of ADCs.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1358-1366
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Difluoroacetic acid, DFA, Formic acid, FA, Trifluoroacetic acid, TFA, Antibody-drug conjugate, ADC, IdeS digestion, Monoclonal antibody, mAb, NIST mAb, Reversed-phase chromatography, Subunit profiling, LC-MS, Peak capacity, Protein recovery, MS sensitivity, Disulfide isoforms, Drug-to-antibody ratio, DAR, Salt adducts, Metal adducts, Sodium, Potassium

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