The effect of growth factor (GF) and sodium butyrate (NaBu) on Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell growth, cell viability and antibody production was investigated using shaking flasks in GF-containing and GF-deficient medium containing 0, 1 and 3 mM NaBu. The withdrawal of GF and the addition of NaBu suppressed cell growth, but they significantly increased specific antibody productivity, q(Ab). Interestingly, the withdrawal of GF in combination with the addition of NaBu markedly retarded cell death, leading to extended culture longevity. For instance, at 3 mM NaBu, cell viability fell below 80% after day 4 in GF-containing medium, but it remained over 80% until day 18 in GF-deficient medium. Due to the enhanced q(Ab) and the extended culture longevity, approximately 2-fold increase in total antibody production was achieved in pseudo-perfusion culture with 1 mM NaBu in GF-deficient medium, compared to the culture in GF-containing medium. The effect of GF and NaBu on the change in the expression and activity of cellular proteins, c-Myc, Bcl-2 and pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), was also investigated. Both the withdrawal of GF and the addition of NaBu decreased the expression of c-Myc. The expression of Bcl-2 was enhanced by the addition of NaBu in a dose-dependent manner while it was not affected by the withdrawal of GF. In addition, both the withdrawal of GF and the addition of NaBu reduced metabolic rates, q(Glc), q(Lac) and Y(Lac/Glc), and increased PDH activity while not affecting PDH expression, suggesting that they may reduce the glycolytic rates, but enhance the conversion rates of pyruvate to TCA intermediates. Taken together, the withdrawal of GF in combination with the addition of NaBu can be considered as a relevant strategy for alleviating NaBu-induced cell apoptosis and enhancing antibody production since it can be easily implemented as well as enhance q(Ab) and extend culture longevity. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.