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Clin Cancer Res. 2012 Apr 1;18(7):1888-900. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-1789. Epub 2012 Feb 20.

Protein kinase CK2 protects multiple myeloma cells from ER stress-induced apoptosis and from the cytotoxic effect of HSP90 inhibition through regulation of the unfolded protein response.

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Department of Medicine, University of Padova, Via Giustiniani 2, Padova 35128, Italy.



Protein kinase CK2 promotes multiple myeloma cell growth by regulating critical signaling pathways. CK2 also modulates proper HSP90-dependent client protein folding and maturation by phosphorylating its co-chaperone CDC37. Because the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress/unfolded protein response (UPR) is central in myeloma pathogenesis, we tested the hypothesis that the CK2/CDC37/HSP90 axis could be involved in UPR in myeloma cells.


We analyzed CK2 activity upon ER stress, the effects of its inactivation on the UPR pathways and on ER stress-induced apoptosis. The consequences of CK2 plus HSP90 inhibition on myeloma cell growth in vitro and in vivo and CK2 regulation of HSP90-triggered UPR were determined.


CK2 partly localized to the ER and ER stress triggered its kinase activity. CK2 inhibition reduced the levels of the ER stress sensors IRE1α and BIP/GRP78, increased phosphorylation of PERK and EIF2α, and enhanced ER stress-induced apoptosis. Simultaneous inactivation of CK2 and HSP90 resulted in a synergic anti-myeloma effect (combination index = 0.291) and in much stronger alterations of the UPR pathways as compared with the single inhibition of the two molecules. Cytotoxicity from HSP90 and CK2 targeting was present in a myeloma microenvironment model, on plasma cells from patients with myeloma and in an in vivo mouse xenograft model. Mechanistically, CK2 inhibition led to a reduction of IRE1α/HSP90/CDC37 complexes in multiple myeloma cells.


Our results place CK2 as a novel regulator of the ER stress/UPR cascades and HSP90 function in myeloma cells and offer the groundwork to design novel combination treatments for this disease.

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