UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Development of a high-performance liquid chromatographic assay for human chorionic gonadotropin as an alternative to the official United States pharmacopeial animal assay Embree, Leanne


Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a glycoprotein hormone with two nonidentical subunits, is produced by chorionic tissue in pregnant women and by neoplastic tissue containing chorionic elements. It is used in the treatment of male hypogonadism and female sub-fertility. Quantitation of HCG is used to monitor therapy, diagnose various disease states and diagnose and monitor pregnancy. Low levels of HCG in the early and late stages of pregnancy and in various disease states has prompted the development of extremely sensitive assay procedures. Clinically, radioimmunoassay methods are most frequently used due to their precision, sensitivity and cost. However, problems with specificity have been noted. Commercial preparations of HCG must meet the standards outlined in the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). The assay procedure involves a rat uterine weight bioassay. This protocol is lengthy to perform (5 days), requires the sacrifice of a large number of animals (minimum of 60 female rats per assay) and may need to be repeated if the results do not meet the statistical requirements of the assay. Due to the use of animals and the animal care facilities required, this is an expensive assay. In addition, the bioassay is not specific for HCG. Therefore, this thesis reports the analysis of two commercial preparations of HCG, as well as USP Reference Standard HCG and commercially available purified intact HCG and purified individual subunits. Various HPLC assay procedures were evaluated to determine if HPLC would be a viable alternative to the official USP bioassay. Size exclusion HPLC, using one Protein Pak 125 sw column and two Protein Pak 300 sw columns individually and in various combinations, was used to assess all the samples of HCG. Attempts to increase resolution of HCG from interfering components found in these preparations included using both 208 nm and 278 nm for ultraviolet detection, evaluation of 32 buffers as mobile phases with the Protein Pak 300 sw column, fluorescamine derivatization of HCG followed by fluorescence detection, connection of two size exclusion columns in series, and recycling on a Protein Pak 300 sw column. Further attempts to isolate HCG from its protein contaminants involved using ion exchange HPLC with a Protein Pak DEAE 5 pw column with 20 different buffers as mobile phases as well as reversed-phase HPLC with an Ultrasphere ODS column. The greatest resolution was obtained with one Protein Pak 300 sw column with a phosphate buffer (0.15 M, pH 7.0) for the mobile phase and ultraviolet detection. Latex agglutination inhibition slide tests and electrophoresis techniques were used to evaluate commercial samples of HCG and chromatographic peak eluates. Commercial HCG samples appear to contain the individual subunits of HCG and intact HCG along with impurities. The USP Reference Standard HCG contains intact HCG but also contains other ultraviolet absorbing components that were partially separated by HPLC. Electrophoresis also indicated that this HCG sample contained impurities. In addition, the purified intact HCG and purified subunit samples contained impurities, as shown by HPLC. The size exclusion HPLC assay developed using one Protein Pak 300 sw column was unable to resolve intact HCG from the beta-subunit. This assay would be useful for a qualitative assay for purity of HCG preparations. However, at present, HPLC is not a viable alternative to the USP bioassay.

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