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Exp Hematol. 2008 Dec;36(12):1673-1681. doi: 10.1016/j.exphem.2008.08.001. Epub 2008 Oct 15.

Epigenetic silencing of the interferon regulatory factor ICSBP/IRF8 in human multiple myeloma.

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Department of Genetics and Pathology, Rudbeck Laboratory, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.



Multiple myeloma (MM) is presently an incurable malignant plasma cell tumor. The objective of this study was to investigate expression of the interferon regulatory factor family (IRF1-9) and the potential role of DNA methylation in silencing IRF genes in MM cell lines and purified MM cells from patients.


Using a panel of 13 human MM cell lines and purified CD138+ cells from nine MM patients, expression of IRF genes was investigated by quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and Western blot. DNA methylation of the interferon consensus sequence-binding protein (ICSBP/IRF8) gene was measured using pyrosequencing, and the effect of promoter methylation on expression was analyzed by in vitro methylation of a cloned ICSBP/IRF8 promoter, and treatment of MM cells with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC).


Eight of thirteen of the MM cell lines were found to lack ICSBP/IRF8 expression, associated with hypermethylation of the CpG island in the ICSBP/IRF8 promoter. We also found that ICSBP/IRF8 was significantly underexpressed in primary MM cells, whereas the ICSBP/IRF8 promoter was methylated in only one of nine of primary purified CD138+ MM samples. DAC-mediated demethylation restored endogenous ICSBP/IRF8 expression, whereas in vitro methylation silenced the promoter.


Expression of the ICSBP/IRF8 gene is silenced in a majority of MM cell lines and primary CD138+ MM cells. DNA methylation of the ICSBP/IRF8 gene is a frequent event in MM cell lines, but silencing is also observed in the absence of methylation. These results suggest that silencing of ICSBP/IRF8 expression, by DNA methylation or other epigenetic mechanisms, may be associated with the malignant phenotype of MM.

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