What is the functional role of the thalidomide binding protein cereblon?

Xiu Bao Chang, A. Keith Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


It has been found that nonsense mutation R419X of cereblon (CRBN) is associated with autosomal recessive non-syndromic mental retardation. Further experiments showed that CRBN binds to the cytosolic C-terminus of large-conductance Ca ++ activated potassium channel (BKCa) a-subunit and the cytosolic C-terminus of a voltage-gated chloride channel-2 (ClC-2), suggesting that CRBN may play a role in memory and learning via regulating the assembly and surface expression of BKCa and ClC-2 channels. In addition, it has also been found that CRBN directly interacts with the a1 subunit of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and prevents formation of a functional holoenzyme with regulatory subunits (3 and Y. Since AMPK is a master sensor of energy balance that inhibits ATP-consuming anabolic pathways and increases ATP-producing catabolic pathways, binding of CRBN with a1 subunit of AMPK may play a role in these pathways by regulating the function of AMPK. Furthermore, CRBN interacts with damaged DNA binding protein 1 and forms an E3 ubiquitin ligase complex with Cullin 4 where it functions as a substrate receptor in which the proteins recognized by CRBN might be ubiquitinated and degraded by proteasomes. Proteasome-mediated degradation of unneeded or damaged proteins plays a very important role in maintaining regular function of a cell, such as cell survival, dividing, proliferation and growth. Intriguingly, a new role for CRBN has been identified, i.e, the binding of immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs), e.g. thalidomide, to CRBN has now been associated with teratogenicity and also the cytotoxicity of IMiDs, including lenalidomide, which are widely used to treat multiple myeloma patients. CRBN likely plays an important role in binding, ubiquitination and degradation of factors involved in maintaining function of myeloma cells. These new findings regarding the role of CRBN in IMiD action will stimulate intense investigation of CRBN's downstream factors involved in maintaining regular function of a cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-294
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011


  • AMPK
  • BKCA
  • CLC-2
  • CRBN
  • CUL4A
  • DDB1
  • E3 ubiquitin ligase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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