CD38 in Adenosinergic Pathways and Metabolic Re-programming in Human Multiple Myeloma Cells: In-tandem Insights From Basic Science to Therapy

Alberto L Horenstein, Cristiano Bracci, Fabio Morandi, Fabio Malavasi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Tumor microenvironments are rich in extracellular nucleotides that can be metabolized by ectoenzymes to produce adenosine, a nucleoside involved in controlling immune responses. Multiple myeloma, a plasma cell malignancy developed within a bone marrow niche, exploits adenosinergic pathways to customize the immune homeostasis of the tumor. CD38, a multifunctional protein that acts as both receptor and ectoenzyme, is overexpressed at all stages of myeloma. At neutral and acidic pH, CD38 catalyzes the extracellular conversion of NAD+ to regulators of calcium signaling. The initial disassembly of NAD+ is also followed by adenosinergic activity, if CD38 is operating in the presence of CD203a and CD73 nucleotidases. cAMP extruded from tumor cells provides another substrate for metabolizing nucleotidases to signaling adenosine. These pathways flank or bypass the canonical adenosinergic pathway subjected to the conversion of ATP by CD39. All of the adenosinergic networks can be hijacked by the tumor, thus controlling the homeostatic reprogramming of the myeloma in the bone marrow. In this context, adenosine assumes the role of a local hormone: cell metabolism is adjusted via low- or high-affinity purinergic receptors expressed by immune and bone cells as well as by tumor cells. The result is immunosuppression, which contributes to the failure of immune surveillance in cancer. A similar metabolic strategy silences immune effectors during the progression of indolent gammopathies to symptomatic overt multiple myeloma disease. Plasma from myeloma aspirates contains elevated levels of adenosine resulting from interactions between myeloma and other cells lining the niche and adenosine concentrations are known to increase as the disease progresses. This is statistically reflected in the International Staging System for multiple myeloma. Along with the ability to deplete CD38+ malignant plasma cell populations which has led to their widespread therapeutic use, anti-CD38 antibodies are involved in the polarization and release of microvesicles characterized by the expression of multiple adenosine-producing molecules. These adenosinergic pathways provide new immune checkpoints for improving immunotherapy protocols by helping to restore the depressed immune response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)760
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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