International Journal of Hematology

DOI: 10.1007/s12185-016-2073-4 Pages: 293-299

Cereblon and its downstream substrates as molecular targets of immunomodulatory drugs

1. Tokyo Medical University, Department of Nanoparticle Translational Research


Correspondence to:
Hiroshi Handa



Thalidomide was first developed as a sedative around 60 years ago, but exhibited teratogenicity, leading to serious defects such as limb deformities. Nevertheless, thalidomide is now recognized as a therapeutic drug for the treatment of Hansen’s disease and myeloma. Immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs), a new class of anti-cancer drug derived from thalidomide, have also been developed and exert potent anti-cancer effects. Although the molecular mechanism of thalidomide and IMiDs remained unclear for a long time, cereblon, a substrate receptor of the CRL4 E3 ubiquitin ligase was identified as a primary direct target by a new affinity technique. A growing body of evidence suggests that the effect of IMiDs on myeloma and other cancer cells is mediated by CRBN. Each IMiD binds to CRBN and alters the substrate specificity of the CRBN E3 ubiquitin ligase complex, resulting in breakdown of intrinsic downstream proteins such as Ikaros and Aiolos. Here we give an overview of the current understanding of mechanism of action of IMiDs via CRBN and prospects for the development of new drugs that degrade protein of interest.

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