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Leukemia. 2012 Sep;26(9):2135-41. doi: 10.1038/leu.2012.80. Epub 2012 Mar 20.

CD138-negative clonogenic cells are plasma cells but not B cells in some multiple myeloma patients.

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Department of Cancer Stem Cell Biology, Osaka, Japan.


Clonogenic multiple myeloma (MM) cells reportedly lacked expression of plasma cell marker CD138. It was also shown that CD19(+) clonotypic B cells can serve as MM progenitor cells in some patients. However, it is unclear whether CD138-negative clonogenic MM plasma cells are identical to clonotypic CD19(+) B cells. We found that in vitro MM colony-forming cells were enriched in CD138(-)CD19(-)CD38(++) plasma cells, while CD19(+) B cells never formed MM colonies in 16 samples examined in this study. We next used the SCID-rab model, which enables engraftment of human MM in vivo. CD138(-)CD19(-)CD38(++) plasma cells engrafted in this model rapidly propagated MM in 3 out of 9 cases, while no engraftment of CD19(+) B cells was detected. In 4 out of 9 cases, CD138(+) plasma cells propagated MM, although more slowly than CD138(-) cells. Finally, we transplanted CD19(+) B cells from 13 MM patients into NOD/SCID IL2Rγc(-/-) mice, but MM did not develop. These results suggest that at least in some MM patients CD138-negative clonogenic cells are plasma cells rather than B cells, and that MM plasma cells including CD138(-) and CD138(+) cells have the potential to propagate MM clones in vivo in the absence of CD19(+) B cells.

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