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Br J Haematol. 2002 Aug;118(2):495-505.

Beta(2)-microglobulin as a negative growth regulator of myeloma cells.

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  • 1Myeloma and Transplantation Research Center, Arkansas Cancer Research Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 West Markham Street, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.


High beta(2)-microglobulin (beta(2)m) levels in myeloma correlate with poor prognosis. We hypothesized that beta(2)m may affect myeloma cell growth and survival. In this study, we examined the in vitro effects of beta(2)m on myeloma cells. Primary myeloma cells freshly isolated from patients and myeloma cell lines were used, cultured in the presence of beta(2)m, and monitored for growth and survival. Beta(2)m suppressed the growth of primary tumour cells and myeloma cell lines (ARK-RS, ARP-1, RPMI-8226, U266, ARH-77 and IM-9). High concentrations of beta(2)m induced apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. Beta(2)m-induced apoptosis was dependent on activation of a caspase cascade, inhibited by interleukin 6, and did not involve the surface death receptors, as receptor-neutralizing antibodies had no inhibitory effect. Beta(2)m-induced growth arrest was associated with downregulation of cyclins A and D2. Surprisingly, anti-beta(2)m antibodies did not block the effect of beta(2)m but were synergistic with beta(2)m, resulting in 90% growth inhibition and 70% apoptosis of myeloma cells. Whereas beta(2)m treatment resulted in slight upregulation of surface beta(2)m and major histocompatibility complex class I alpha-chain expression, treatment of myeloma cells with anti-beta(2)m antibodies alone or with beta(2)m resulted in significant downregulation of surface beta(2)m and class I molecules, suggesting that class I molecules may be involved in signal transduction. Our data demonstrate that beta(2)m plays an important role in regulating the growth and survival of myeloma cells in vitro and warrants further investigation to delineate the mechanisms of beta(2)m and anti-beta(2)m antibody-induced growth regulation of myeloma cells.

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