Molecular glue (MG) degraders include plant hormones and therapeutic drugs and have become a hot topic in drug discovery. Unlike bivalent proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs), monovalent MGs can trigger the degradation of non-ligandable proteins by enhancing their interaction with E3 ubiquitin ligases. Here, I analyze the characteristics of natural MG degraders, contrast them with synthetic ones, and provide a rationale for optimizing MGs. In natural MG-based degradation systems, a stable complex is only formed when all three partners (MG, E3 ligase, and substrate) are present, while the affinities between any two components are either weak or undetectable. After the substrate is degraded, the MG will dissociate from its receptor (E3 ligase) due to their low micromolar affinity. In contrast, synthetic MGs, such as immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs) and CR8, are potent inhibitors of their receptors by blocking the CRBN-native substrate interaction or by occupying the active site of CDK12. Inspired by nature, the affinities of IMiDs to CRBN can be reduced to make those compounds degraders without the E3-inhibitory activity, therefore, minimizing the interference with the physiological substrates of CRBN. Similarly, the CR8–CDK interaction can be weakened to uncouple the degrader function from the kinase inhibition. To mimic natural examples and reduce side effects, future development of MG degraders that lack the inhibitory activity should be considered.

You do not currently have access to this content.