Identification of a primary target of thalidomide teratogenicity

Takumi Ito, Hideki Ando, Takayuki Suzuki, Toshihiko Ogura, Kentaro Hotta, Yoshimasa Imamura, Yuki Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Handa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1452 Citations (Scopus)


Half a century ago, thalidomide was widely prescribed to pregnant women as a sedative but was found to be teratogenic, causing multiple birth defects. Today, thalidomide is still used in the treatment of leprosy and multiple myeloma, although how it causes limb malformation and other developmental defects is unknown. Here, we identified cereblon (CRBN) as a thalidomide-binding protein. CRBN forms an E3 ubiquitin ligase complex with damaged DNA binding protein 1 (DDBl) and Cul4A that is important for limb outgrowth and expression of the fibroblast growth factor Fgf8 in zebrafish and chicks. Thalidomide initiates its teratogenic effects by binding to CRBN and inhibiting the associated ubiquitin ligase activity. This study reveals a basis for thalidomide teratogenicity and may contribute to the development of new thalidomide derivatives without teratogenic activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1345-1350
Number of pages6
Issue number5971
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Mar 12


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