Proteolysis-targeting chimera against BCL-XL destroys tumor-infiltrating regulatory T cells

Ryan Kolb, Umasankar De, Sajid Khan, Yuewan Luo, Myung Chul Kim, Haijun Yu, Chaoyan Wu, Jiao Mo, Xin Zhang, Peiyi Zhang, Xuan Zhang, Nicholas Borcherding, Daniel Koppel, Yang Xin Fu, Song Guo Zheng, Dorina Avram, Guangrong Zheng, Daohong Zhou, Weizhou Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play an important role in maintaining immune homeostasis and, within tumors, their upregulation is common and promotes an immunosuppressive microenvironment. Therapeutic strategies that can eliminate Tregs in the tumor (i.e., therapies that do not run the risk of affecting normal tissues), are urgently needed for the development of cancer immunotherapies. Here we report our discovery of B-cell lymphoma extra-large (BCL-XL) as a potential molecular target of tumor-infiltrating (TI) Tregs. We show that pharmacological degradation of BCL-XL using a newly developed platelet-sparing BCL-XL Proteolysis-targeting chimera (PROTAC) induces the apoptosis of TI-Tregs and the activation of TI-CD8+ T cells. Moreover, these activities result in an effective suppression of syngeneic tumor growth in immunocompetent, but not in immunodeficient or CD8+ T cell-depleted mice. Notably, treatment with BCL-XL PROTAC does not cause detectable damage within several normal tissues or thrombocytopenia. These findings identify BCL-XL as a target in the elimination of TI-Tregs as a component of cancer immunotherapies, and that the BCL-XL-specific PROTAC has the potential to be developed as a therapeutic for cancer immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1281
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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