Multiple myeloma (MM) is characterized by the accumulation of malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow caused primarily by failure of normal homeostatic mechanisms to prevent the expansion of post-germinal center plasma cells. We have examined the molecular mechanisms that promote the survival of MM cells and have identified a key role for myeloid cell factor-1 (Mcl-1), an antiapoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family. These experiments were initiated by the observation that MM cells were exquisitely sensitive to culture in the presence of actinomycin D: caspase activation occurred within 3 hours of treatment and cells were not protected by interleukin-6, the main MM cell growth and survival factor. Actinomycin D-induced apoptosis was blocked by proteasome inhibitors, suggesting that a labile protein was required for MM cell survival. Further analysis demonstrated that Mcl-1 was likely to be the labile factor governing MM cell survival. Mcl-1 protein levels decreased rapidly after culture in the presence of actinomycin D in concordance with effector caspase activation, but addition of proteasome inhibitors reversed the loss of Mcl-1 and maintained cell viability. The levels of other antiapoptotic proteins, including Bcl-2 and members of the inhibitors-of-apoptosis family, were unaffected by these interventions. Furthermore, Mcl-1 antisense oligonucleotides caused a rapid down-regulation of Mcl-1 protein levels and the coincident induction of apoptosis, whereas overexpression of Mcl-1 delayed actinomycin D-induced apoptosis with kinetics that correlated with expression levels of Mcl-1. These data indicate that Mcl-1 expression is required for the survival of MM cells and may represent an important target for future therapeutics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology