Targeted protein degradation by small molecules is an emerging modality with significant potential for drug discovery. We previously developed chimeric molecules, termed specific and non-genetic inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP)-dependent protein erasers (SNIPERs), which induce the ubiquitylation and proteasomal degradation of target proteins. This degradation is mediated by the IAPs; the target proteins include bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4), an epigenetic regulator protein. The SNIPER that degrades this particular protein, SNIPER(BRD)-1, consists of an IAP antagonist LCL-161 derivative and a bromodomain and extra-terminal (BET) inhibitor, (+)-JQ-1. SNIPER(BRD)-1 also degrades a cellular inhibitor of apoptosis protein 1 (cIAP1) and an X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP), the mechanisms of which are not well understood. Here, we show that the degradation of cIAP1 and XIAP by SNIPER(BRD)-1 is induced via different mechanisms. Using a chemical biology-based approach, we developed two inactive SNIPERs, SNIPER(BRD)-3 and SNIPER(BRD)-4, incapable of degrading BRD4. SNIPER(BRD)-3 contained an N-methylated LCL-161 derivative as the IAP ligand, which prevented it from binding IAPs, and resulted in the abrogated degradation of cIAP1, XIAP, and BRD4. SNIPER(BRD)-4, however, incorporated the enantiomer (-)-JQ-1 which was incapable of binding BRD4; this SNIPER degraded cIAP1 but lost the ability to degrade XIAP and BRD4. Furthermore, a mixture of the ligands, (+)-JQ-1 and LCL-161, induced the degradation of cIAP1, but not XIAP and BRD4. These results indicate that cIAP1 degradation is triggered by the binding of the IAP antagonist module to induce autoubiquitylation of cIAP1, whereas a ternary complex formation is required for the SNIPER-induced degradation of XIAP and BRD4.
Keywords: E3 ligase; chimeric small molecule; proteasome; ubiquitin.