Multiple myeloma is still incurable due to an intrinsic aggressiveness or, more frequently, to the interactions of malignant plasma cells with the bone marrow (BM) microenvironment. Myeloma cells educate BM cells to support neoplastic cell growth, survival, acquisition of drug resistance resulting in disease relapse. Myeloma microenvironment is characterized by Notch signaling hyperactivation due to the increased expression of Notch1 and 2 and the ligands Jagged1 and 2 in tumor cells. Notch activation influences myeloma cell biology and promotes the reprogramming of BM stromal cells. In this work we demonstrate, in vitro, ex vivo and by using a zebrafish multiple myeloma model, that Jagged inhibition causes a decrease in both myeloma-intrinsic and stromal cell-induced resistance to currently used drugs, i.e. bortezomib, lenalidomide and melphalan. The molecular mechanism of drug resistance involves the chemokine system CXCR4/SDF1α. Myeloma cell-derived Jagged ligands trigger Notch activity in BM stromal cells. These, in turn, secrete higher levels of SDF1α in the BM microenvironment increasing CXCR4 activation in myeloma cells, which is further potentiated by the concomitant increased expression of this receptor induced by Notch activation. Consistently with the augmented pharmacological resistance, SDF1α boosts the expression of BCL2, Survivin and ABCC1. These results indicate that a Jagged-tailored approach may contribute to disrupting the pharmacological resistance due to intrinsic myeloma cell features or to the pathological interplay with BM stromal cells and, conceivably, improve patients' response to standard-of-care therapies.
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