Research Highlights

Genomes of Chinese hamster cell lines mapped

Published online 29 July 2013

Sara Osman

Cell lines derived from the ovaries of Chinese hamster (CHO) are widely used to produce proteins and other biological pharmaceuticals. Without a system of sharing information about the genetic data being gathered on cell lines, researchers will find it difficult to select a particular cell line and culture conditions suited to their specific needs.

To document the genetic characteristics of CHO, an international team of researchers, including Jun Wang of the King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, set out to draft a reference genome to which the genomes of the various CHO cell lines can be compared, publishing their results in Nature Biotechnology.

They fully sequenced the genome of a female Chinese hamster to map 24,044 genes, and determined the function of 82% of those genes. The researchers then compared the hamster genome to six common CHO cell lines, and found significant variability between them with over 3.7 million single base variations, over 500,000 base insertions or deletions, and over 7,000 variations in the number of copies of genes on a chromosome.

The hamster genome was also used as a reference to study apoptosis — programmed cell death — in CHO cells, a major limitation to their durability in industrial settings. An understanding of variation in apoptotic genes would help increase the longevity of CHO cells by cell-engineering.


  1. Lewis, N.E et al. Genomic landscapes of Chinese hamster ovary cell lines as revealed by the Cricetulus griseus draft genome. Nature Biotechnology (2013) doi:10.1038/nbt.2624