p63 is a cereblon substrate involved in thalidomide teratogenicity

Nat Chem Biol. 2019 Nov;15(11):1077-1084. doi: 10.1038/s41589-019-0366-7. Epub 2019 Oct 7.


Cereblon (CRBN) is a primary target of thalidomide and mediates its multiple pharmacological activities, including teratogenic and antimyeloma activities. CRBN functions as a substrate receptor of the E3 ubiquitin ligase CRL4, whose substrate specificity is modulated by thalidomide and its analogs. Although a number of CRL4CRBN substrates have recently been identified, the substrate involved in thalidomide teratogenicity is unclear. Here we show that p63 isoforms are thalidomide-dependent CRL4CRBN neosubstrates that are responsible, at least in part, for its teratogenic effects. The p53 family member p63 is associated with multiple developmental processes. ∆Np63α is essential for limb development, while TAp63α is important for cochlea development and hearing. Using a zebrafish model, we demonstrate that thalidomide exerts its teratogenic effects on pectoral fins and otic vesicles by inducing the degradation of ∆Np63α and TAp63α, respectively. These results may contribute to the invention of new thalidomide analogs lacking teratogenic activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Teratogens / toxicity*
  • Thalidomide / toxicity*


  • CKAP4 protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Teratogens
  • Thalidomide