Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Kyung Bo Kim


The use of small molecules to probe the function of proteins is referred to as chemical genetics. The Proteolysis Targeting Chimera (PROTAC) is a chemical genetic tool that contains the ligand for a target protein of interest and the recognition motif for an E3 ubiquitin ligase attached by a linker. The PROTAC is capable of binding to and recruiting specific target proteins to the intracellular degradation system, the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS). While the approach has had success it has not been optimized to be used on a broader scale.

Optimization efforts focused on elucidating the ideal linker length between the ligand and the E3-ligase recognition motif, the preferred location for attachment of the linker to the two moieties, and the possibility for a dimeric PROTAC comprised of two ligands. An estrogen receptor (ER)-targeting PROTAC was chosen as a model for optimization attempts as the ER is known to have pathological significance in breast cancer. Optimization of the PROTAC technology will not only provide a novel tool to probe ER biology, but may also offer a novel approach to breast cancer therapies. The ER targeting PROTAC constitute the 17β-estradiol (E2), as the ligand for ER and a pentapeptide derived from HIF-1α as the E3-ligase recognition motif, joined by a linker.

Following the successful synthesis and evaluation of a number of PROTACs, it was revealed that an optimum ER-targeting monomeric PROTAC (KC-3) has a spacer of 16 atoms between the E2 and HIF-1α pentapeptide. The spacer is attached at the C-7α position on E2 and at the N-terminus of the HIF-1α pentapeptide. It was also established that the PROTAC is capable of targeting the ER for degradation in a proteasome and E3- ligase dependent manner, which translated to a decrease in the proliferation of MCF-7 cells with an IC50 similar to that of tamoxifen. KC-3, in comparison with E2, displayed lower agonistic activity on an ER-regulated downstream target, the progesterone receptor (PR). A dimeric PROTAC more effectively binds and degrades the ER in a proteasome dependent manner, suggesting that the dimeric ligand approach may be applied to the design of other PROTACs.



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