Degraders in epigenetic therapy: PROTACs and beyond

Theranostics. 2024 Jan 27;14(4):1464-1499. doi: 10.7150/thno.92526. eCollection 2024.


Epigenetics refers to the reversible process through which changes in gene expression occur without changing the nucleotide sequence of DNA. The process is currently gaining prominence as a pivotal objective in the treatment of cancers and other ailments. Numerous drugs that target epigenetic mechanisms have obtained approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the therapeutic intervention of diverse diseases; many have drawbacks, such as limited applicability, toxicity, and resistance. Since the discovery of the first proteolysis-targeting chimeras (PROTACs) in 2001, studies on targeted protein degradation (TPD)-encompassing PROTACs, molecular glue (MG), hydrophobic tagging (HyT), degradation TAG (dTAG), Trim-Away, a specific and non-genetic inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP)-dependent protein eraser (SNIPER), antibody-PROTACs (Ab-PROTACs), and other lysosome-based strategies-have achieved remarkable progress. In this review, we comprehensively highlight the small-molecule degraders beyond PROTACs that could achieve the degradation of epigenetic proteins (including bromodomain-containing protein-related targets, histone acetylation/deacetylation-related targets, histone methylation/demethylation related targets, and other epigenetic targets) via proteasomal or lysosomal pathways. The present difficulties and forthcoming prospects in this domain are also deliberated upon, which may be valuable for medicinal chemists when developing more potent, selective, and drug-like epigenetic drugs for clinical applications.

Keywords: PROTACs, epigenetics, anti-cancer; drug design; protein degrader.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Histones*
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Proteolysis
  • United States


  • Histones