A number of clinically validated drugs have been developed by repurposing the CUL4-DDB1-CRBN-RBX1 (CRL4CRBN) E3 ubiquitin ligase complex with molecular glue degraders to eliminate disease-driving proteins. Here, we present the identification of a first-in-class GSPT1-selective cereblon E3 ligase modulator, CC-90009. Biochemical, structural, and molecular characterization demonstrates that CC-90009 coopts the CRL4CRBN to selectively target GSPT1 for ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Depletion of GSPT1 by CC-90009 rapidly induces acute myeloid leukemia (AML) apoptosis, reducing leukemia engraftment and leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in large-scale primary patient xenografting of 35 independent AML samples, including those with adverse risk features. Using a genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 screen for effectors of CC-90009 response, we uncovered the ILF2 and ILF3 heterodimeric complex as a novel regulator of cereblon expression. Knockout of ILF2/ILF3 decreases the production of full-length cereblon protein via modulating CRBN messenger RNA alternative splicing, leading to diminished response to CC-90009. The screen also revealed that the mTOR signaling and the integrated stress response specifically regulate the response to CC-90009 in contrast to other cereblon modulators. Hyperactivation of the mTOR pathway by inactivation of TSC1 and TSC2 protected against the growth inhibitory effect of CC-90009 by reducing CC-90009-induced binding of GSPT1 to cereblon and subsequent GSPT1 degradation. On the other hand, GSPT1 degradation promoted the activation of the GCN1/GCN2/ATF4 pathway and subsequent apoptosis in AML cells. Collectively, CC-90009 activity is mediated by multiple layers of signaling networks and pathways within AML blasts and LSCs, whose elucidation gives insight into further assessment of CC-90009s clinical utility. These trials were registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT02848001 and #NCT04336982).
© 2021 by The American Society of Hematology.