Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents and Techniques: A Challenge for Doping Analysts

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Abstract:

Recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) engineered in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell cultures (Epoetin alfa and Epoetin beta) and its hyperglycosylated analogue Darbepoetin alfa are known to be misused by athletes. The drugs can be detected by isoelectric focusing (IEF) and immunoblotting of urine samples, because “EPO” is in reality a mixture of isoforms and the N-glycans of the recombinant products differ from those of the endogenous hormone. However, there is a plethora of novel erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESAs). Since the originator Epoetins alfa and beta are no longer protected by patent in the European Union, rHuEPO biosimilars have entered the market. In addition, several companies in Asia, Africa and Latin America produce copied rHuEPOs for clinical purposes. While the amino acid sequence of all Epoetins is identical, the structure of their glycans differs depending on the mode of production. Some products contain more acidic and others more basic EPO isoforms. Epoetin delta is special, as it was engineered by homologous recombination in human fibrosarcoma cells (HT-1080), thus lacking N-glycolylneuraminic acid like native human EPO. ESAs under development include EPO fusion proteins, synthetic erythropoiesis stimulating protein (SEP) and peptidic (HematideTM, CNTO 528) as well as non-peptidic EPO mimetics. Furthermore, preclinical respectively clinical trials have been performed with small orally active drugs that stimulate endogenous EPO production by activating the EPO promoter (“GATA-inhibitors”: diazepane derivatives) or enhancer (“HIF-stabilizers”: 2-oxoglutarate analogues). The prohibited direct EPO gene transfer may become a problem in sports only in the future.

Keywords: Doping; erythropoietin; glycosylation; immunoblotting; recombinant DNA-technology

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2174/092986709787846668

Affiliations: Institute of Physiology, University of Luebeck, D-23538 Luebeck, Germany.

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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