Targeted protein degradation (TPD) using the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) is a rapidly growing drug discovery modality to eliminate pathogenic proteins. Strategies for TPD have focused on heterobifunctional degraders that often suffer from poor drug-like properties, and molecular glues that rely on serendipitous discovery. Monovalent “direct” degraders represent an alternative approach, in which small molecules bind to a target protein and induce degradation of that protein through the recruitment of an E3 ligase complex. Using an ultra-high throughput cell-based screening platform, degraders of the bromodomain extraterminal protein BRD4 were identified and optimized to yield a lead compound, PLX-3618. In this paper, we demonstrate that PLX-3618 elicited UPS-mediated selective degradation of BRD4, resulting in potent antitumor activity in vitro and in vivo. Characterization of the degradation mechanism identified DCAF11 as the E3 ligase required for PLX-3618-mediated degradation of BRD4. Protein–protein interaction studies verified a BRD4:PLX-3618:DCAF11 ternary complex, and mutational studies provided further insights into the DCAF11-mediated degradation mechanism. Collectively, these results demonstrate the discovery and characterization of a novel small molecule that selectively degrades BRD4 through the recruitment of the E3 substrate receptor, DCAF11, and promotes potent antitumor activity in vivo.

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