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Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are a cell line derived from the ovary of the Chinese hamster, often used in biological and medical research and commercially in the production of therapeutic proteins.[1] They were introduced in the 1960s, are grown as a cultured monolayer and require the amino acid proline in their culture medium.

CHO cells are used in studies of genetics, toxicity screening, nutrition and gene expression, particularly to express recombinant proteins. Today, CHO cells are the most commonly used mammalian hosts for industrial production of recombinant protein therapeutics.


The use of the Chinese hamster in research began in 1919 where they were used in place of mice for typing pneumococci. They were subsequently found to be excellent vectors for transmission of kala-azar (a.k.a. visceral leishmaniasis), facilitating research in epidemiology.

In 1948, the Chinese hamster was brought to the United States for breeding in research laboratories. In the following years, the Chinese hamster became noteworthy for the cell lines that were derived from its tissues. Having a very low chromosome number (2n=22) for a mammal, the Chinese hamster is an ideal model for radiation cytogenetics and tissue culture.[2]

In 1957, Theodore T. Puck obtained a female Chinese hamster from Dr. George Yerganian's laboratory at the Boston Cancer Research Foundation and used it to derive the original Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell line. Since then, CHO cells have been a cell line of choice because of their rapid growth and high protein production. They have become the mammalian equivalent of Escherichia coli in research and biotechnology today, especially when long-term, stable gene expression and high yields of proteins are required.


CHO cells do not express the Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which makes them ideal in the investigation of various EGFR mutations.[3]

The first CHO cell line was derived from the original cell lines in Dr. Puck's laboratory through single cell cloning in 1957.[4] CHO-K1 was later derived from this ancestral cell line,[5] and it contains a slightly lower amount of DNA than the original CHO. CHO-K1 was mutagenized to generate CHO-DXB11 (also referred to as CHO-DUKX), a cell line lacking DHFR activity.[6] These cells have a deletion of one DHFR allele and a Missense mutation in the other. Subsequently, the proline-dependent CHO-pro3- strain, another derivative of the original CHO cell line, was mutagenized to yield CHO-DG44, a cell line with deletions of both DHFR alleles.[7] These two DHFR-minus strains require glycine, hypoxanthine, and thymidine (GHT) for growth. Although not initially intended for recombinant protein manufacture, DHFR-minus CHO cells were used for a number of pioneering experiments demonstrating stable transfection with an exogenous DHFR gene via selection in GHT-minus medium.[8] This genetic selection scheme remains one of the standard methods to establish stably transfected CHO cell lines for the production of recombinant therapeutic proteins. The multistep process begins with the molecular cloning of the gene of interest (GOI) and the dhfr gene in a single or in separate mammalian expression vectors. The plasmid DNA(s) carrying the two genes are then delivered into cells by transfection, and the cells are grown under selective conditions in GHT-minus medium. Each surviving cell will have one or more copies of the exogenous DHFR gene, usually along with the GOI, integrated in its genome.[9] The integrated plasmid copy number varies widely from one recombinant cell to another, but there is almost always only one integration site per cell even if multiple plasmids are transfected.[10] The growth rate and the level of recombinant protein production of each cell line also vary widely. To obtain a few stably transfected cell lines with the desired phenotypic characteristics, it may be necessary to evaluate several hundred candidate cell lines.

The CHO and CHO-K1 cell lines can be obtained from a number of biological resource centres such as the European Collection of Cell Cultures (ECACC) which is part of the Health Protection Agency Culture Collections. CHO-K1[11] data, such as growth curves, timelapse videos of growth, images and subculture routine information are available from ECACC.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jayapal K. P., Wlaschin K. F., Yap M. G. S., Hu W-S., (2007). "Recombinant protein therapeutics from CHO cells — 20 years and counting." (PDF). Chem. Eng. Prog. 103 (10): 40–47. 
  2. ^ Tjio J. H., Puck T. T., (1958). "Genetics of somatic mammalian cells. II. chromosomal constitution of cells in tissue culture.". J. Exp. Med. 108: 259–271. doi:10.1084/jem.108.2.259. PMC 2136870. PMID 13563760. 
  3. ^ Ahsan, A., S. M. Hiniker, M. A. Davis, T. S. Lawrence, and M. K. Nyati. "Role of Cell Cycle in Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Inhibitor-Mediated Radiosensitization." Cancer Research 69.12 (2009): 5108-114. Print.
  4. ^ Wurm FM, Hacker D. "First CHO genome." Nat Biotechnol 2011;29(8):718–20.
  5. ^ Lewis, NE, et al. "Genomic landscapes of Chinese hamster ovary cell lines as revealed by the Cricetulus griseus draft genome." Nat Biotechnol 31, 759–765 (2013). doi: 10.1038/nbt.2624
  6. ^ (Urlaub and Chasin, 1980)
  7. ^ (Urlaub et al., 1983)
  8. ^ (Ringold et al., 1981; Kaufman and Sharp, 1982; Scahill et al., 1983)
  9. ^ (Ringold et al., 1981; Kaufman and Sharp, 1982; Scahill et al., 1983)
  10. ^ (Wurm 1990)
  11. ^ "General Cell Collection: CHO-K1". Hpacultures.org.uk. 2000-01-01. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_hamster_ovary_cell — Please support Wikipedia.
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34 news items

The Biological SCENE

The Biological SCENE
Sun, 22 Nov 2015 22:22:30 -0800

When Matthew Hammond and coworkers spiked 0.8-mg/L bDtBPP—an amount they typically saw in film extracts—directly into Chinese hamster ovary cell cultures, nearly all the cells died (PDA J. Pharm. Sci. Technol. 2013, DOI: 10.5731/pdajpst.2013.00905) ...
Yahoo Finance UK
Tue, 27 Oct 2015 05:33:45 -0700

It has been used to advance development of certain products that have been commercially infeasible to develop with conventional technologies such as Chinese hamster ovary cell systems and microbial fermentation methods. In the case of iBio's own ...
Seneca Globe
Wed, 28 Oct 2015 06:54:48 -0700

It has been used to advance development of certain products that have been commercially infeasible to develop with conventional technologies such as Chinese hamster ovary cell systems and microbial fermentation methods. In the case of iBio's own ...

The Pharma Letter (registration)

The Pharma Letter (registration)
Wed, 16 Sep 2015 04:36:14 -0700

UK-based Horizon Discovery (LSE: HZD) on Wednesday said it has, via its bioproduction arm, signed a license agreement with LakePharma for commercial use of a genetically-engineered Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cell line. No financial details were ...

Medical Xpress

Medical Xpress
Fri, 11 Sep 2015 05:49:54 -0700

The researchers compared four 2A peptides, both in the presence and absence of glycine-serine-glycine linkers, used to express three bio-similar Immunoglobulin G 1 monoclonal antibodies in Chinese hamster ovary cell lines via transient and stable ...
Tue, 09 Dec 2014 00:48:41 -0800

Horizon Discovery Group announced Monday that its bioproduction division has shipped its first commercially available engineered CHO (Chinese Hamster Ovary) cell line for use in manufacturing of antibodies.


Mon, 27 Apr 2015 07:20:55 -0700

After a long pause, the clinical development of soluble rhuFlt3L (now designated CDX-301) has been reinitiated using a new manufacturing process including a proprietary Chinese hamster ovary cell production line and serum-free cell culture. CDX-301 was ...
Mondaq News Alerts (registration)
Tue, 10 Mar 2015 05:36:57 -0700

The PTAB found that a person of ordinary skill would have been motivated to make this combination and that the claimed methods employing GAA "produced in chinese hamster ovary cell cultures" were obvious. The Myozyme® patents are just three of a ...

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