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ACS Cent Sci. 2016 Dec 28;2(12):927-934. doi: 10.1021/acscentsci.6b00280. Epub 2016 Dec 5.

Protein Degradation by In-Cell Self-Assembly of Proteolysis Targeting Chimeras.

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Astex Pharmaceuticals , 436 Cambridge Science Park, Cambridge, CB4 0QA, U.K.


Selective degradation of proteins by proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs) offers a promising potential alternative to protein inhibition for therapeutic intervention. Current PROTAC molecules incorporate a ligand for the target protein, a linker, and an E3 ubiquitin ligase recruiting group, which bring together target protein and ubiquitinating machinery. Such hetero-bifunctional molecules require significant linker optimization and possess high molecular weight, which can limit cellular permeation, solubility, and other drug-like properties. We show here that the hetero-bifunctional molecule can be formed intracellularly by bio-orthogonal click combination of two smaller precursors. We designed a tetrazine tagged thalidomide derivative which reacts rapidly with a trans-cyclo-octene tagged ligand of the target protein in cells to form a cereblon E3 ligase recruiting PROTAC molecule. The in-cell click-formed proteolysis targeting chimeras (CLIPTACs) were successfully used to degrade two key oncology targets, BRD4 and ERK1/2. ERK1/2 degradation was achieved using a CLIPTAC based on a covalent inhibitor. We expect this approach to be readily extendable to other inhibitor-protein systems because the tagged E3 ligase recruiter is capable of undergoing the click reaction with a suitably tagged ligand of any protein of interest to elicit its degradation.

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