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Recent discoveries suggest that the critical events leading to the anti-proliferative activity of the IMiD immunomodulatory agents lenalidomide and pomalidomide in multiple myeloma (MM) cells are initiated by Cereblon-dependent ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation of substrate proteins Ikaros (IKZF1) and Aiolos (IKZF3). By performing kinetic analyses, we found that the downregulation or proteasomal degradation of Ikaros and Aiolos led to specific and sequential downregulation of c-Myc followed by IRF4 and subsequent growth inhibition and apoptosis. Notably, to ensure growth inhibition and cell death, sustained downregulation of Ikaros and Aiolos, c-Myc or IRF4 expression was required. In addition, we found that the half-maximal rate, rather than the final extent of Ikaros and Aiolos degradation, correlated to the relative efficacy of growth inhibition by lenalidomide or pomalidomide. Finally, we observed that all four transcription factors were elevated in primary MM samples compared with normal plasma cells. Taken together, our results suggest a functional link between Ikaros and Aiolos, and the pathological dysregulation of c-Myc and IRF4, and provide a new mechanistic understanding of the relative efficacy of lenalidomide and pomalidomide based on the kinetics of substrate degradation and downregulation of their downstream targets.

Original publication




Journal article


Blood cancer j

Publication Date





Antineoplastic Agents, Apoptosis, Cell Line, Tumor, Cell Proliferation, Down-Regulation, Flow Cytometry, Gene Knockdown Techniques, Humans, Ikaros Transcription Factor, Immunoblotting, Immunohistochemistry, Interferon Regulatory Factors, Lenalidomide, Multiple Myeloma, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc, RNA, Small Interfering, Signal Transduction, Thalidomide