Abstract 4043


Cereblon (CRBN), a component of the DDB1-CUL4A-Roc1 ubiquitin ligase complex, has been identified as a target of the immunomodulatory agents thalidomide, lenalidomide, and pomalidomide (Lopez-Girona et al. Leukemia. 2012; Zhu et al. Blood. 2011; Ito et al. Science. 2010.). CRBN binding by these agents mediates their anti-proliferative effects in multiple myeloma (MM) cells (Lopez-Girona et al. Leukemia. 2012; Zhu et al. Blood. 2011). However, the role of CRBN quantification as a marker for disease responsiveness or resistance to these drugs remains to be fully defined. Furthermore, it is unclear whether measuring mRNA or protein expression is the best approach for development of a quantitative CRBN expression assay. In order to define the optimal assay approach, we have studied CRBN mRNA and protein expression in MM cell lines (n=20) and MM patient samples.


CRBN isoform mapping was undertaken using a nested PCR approach and Sanger sequencing. Commercially available and newly generated rabbit anti-CRBN antibodies were characterized with recombinant human CRBN protein and MM cell line extracts via western blot analysis.


Our data show that in addition to the transcript for full length protein (GenBank Accession NM_016302.3), in MM cells there are at least 6 alternatively spliced isoforms of CRBN as depicted in Figure 1. Five of the 6 CRBN isoforms (CRBN-003, -004, -005, -006, and -007) contain novel splice junctions not previously described. In addition, 3 of the identified transcripts (CRBN-002, -003, and -005) contain in-frame ORFs, suggesting they encode variants of CRBN protein. Of note, exon 10, which contains a portion of the IMiD-binding domain, is not present in CRBN-002. The functional consequence of CRBN-002 remains to be elucidated, but may be a marker of drug resistance.

In order to measure CRBN protein levels, we developed and characterized three rabbit monoclonal antibodies to CRBN including antibody CRBN65, which has the potential to discriminate between the different CRBN protein products, including CRBN-002 by western blot analysis. Additionally, we compared 8 commercially available CRBN antibodies. Western blot analysis of cell lines with commercial and newly developed antibodies identified full length protein at 51 kD. Most commercial antibodies also identified multiple bands of other sizes which may represent CRBN protein variants; however, many are likely non-specific bands as they are larger than full-length CRBN.


We have identified novel splice variants of CRBN from MM cell lines and primary tumor samples. The structure of the isoforms and their potential ability to be translated into several protein variants of CRBN reflect the complex regulation of the CRBN gene. These data suggest that accurate quantification of CRBN mRNA level in clinical studies may require measurement of both full-length CRBN mRNA as well as other mRNA isoforms. Currently available primers and gene expression arrays are not capable of identifying and/or resolving the complex set of CRBN isoforms present in cells. These data also demonstrate that CRBN65 is a highly specific and sensitive antibody that could be used for detection of CRBN and its key variants. Taken together, our data emphasize the importance for developing standardized reagents and assays for both mRNA and protein level measurement of CRBN before using them as markers for clinical response or resistance.

Figure 1:

CRBN mRNA Isoforms Identified in H929 MM Cells

Figure 1:

CRBN mRNA Isoforms Identified in H929 MM Cells

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Gandhi:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Waldman:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Thakurta:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Aukerman:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Chen:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Mendy:Celgene Corp.: Employment, Equity Ownership. Rychak:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Miller:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Gaidarova:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Gonzales:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Cathers:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Schafer:Celgene: Employment, Equity Ownership. Daniel:Celgene Corporation: Employment. Lopez-Girona:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership. Chopra:Celgene Corp: Employment, Equity Ownership.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.