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Genome-wide screen identifies cullin-RING ligase machinery required for lenalidomide-dependent CRL4CRBN activity

Quinlan L. Sievers, Jessica A. Gasser, Glenn S. Cowley, Eric S. Fischer and Benjamin L. Ebert

Key Points

  • Genome-scale CRISPR knockout screen identifies cullin-RING ligase regulators as top mediators of lenalidomide resistance.

  • The E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, UBE2D3 and UBE2G1, play distinct roles in lenalidomide-induced substrate ubiquitination by CRL4CRBN.

Publisher's Note: There is a Blood Commentary on this article in this issue.

Abstract

Lenalidomide mediates the ubiquitination and degradation of Ikaros family zinc finger protein 1 (IKZF1), IKZF3, and casein kinase 1α (CK1α) by facilitating their interaction with cereblon (CRBN), the substrate receptor for the CRL4CRBN E3 ubiquitin ligase. Through this mechanism, lenalidomide is a clinically effective treatment of multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) with deletion of chromosome 5q [del(5q) MDS]. To identify the cellular machinery required for lenalidomide-induced CRL4CRBN activity, we performed a positive selection, genome-scale clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)–CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) screen in a lenalidomide-sensitive myeloma cell line. CRBN was the top-ranking gene, with all CRBN-targeting guide RNAs (gRNAs) ranking as the 6 highest-scoring gRNAs. A counterscreen using an IKZF3 degron reporter to assay lenalidomide-induced protein degradation highlighted regulators of cullin-RING ligase neddylation and 2 E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes as necessary for efficient lenalidomide-induced protein degradation. We demonstrated that loss of UBE2M or members of the constitutive photomorphogenesis 9 (COP9) signalosome results in altered neddylation of cullin 4A and impairs lenalidomide-dependent CRL4CRBN activity. Additionally, we established that UBE2D3 and UBE2G1 play distinct roles in substrate ubiquitination by CRL4CRBN, with UBE2D3 acting to prime targets via monoubiquitination and UBE2G1 functioning to extend polyubiquitin chains with lysine 48 linkages. The validation of UBE2D3 and UBE2G1 highlights the functional capacity of CRISPR-Cas9 screening to identify E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme and E3 ubiquitin ligase complex pairings. More broadly, these findings establish key proteins required for lenalidomide-dependent CRL4CRBN function in myeloma and inform potential mechanisms of drug resistance.

  • Submitted January 5, 2018.
  • Accepted July 2, 2018.
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