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Front Genet. 2013 Jun 11;4:109. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2013.00109. eCollection 2013.

The role of endoplasmic reticulum stress in maintaining and targeting multiple myeloma: a double-edged sword of adaptation and apoptosis.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Hollings Cancer Center, Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, SC, USA.


Increased cellular protein production places stress on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), because many of the nascent proteins pass through the ER for folding and trafficking. Accumulation of misfolded proteins in the ER triggers the activation of three well-known pathways including IRE1 (inositol requiring kinase 1), ATF6 (activating transcription factor 6), and PERK (double stranded RNA-activated protein kinase-like ER kinase). The activity of each sensor modulates the overall ER strategy for managing protein quality control as cellular needs change due to growth, differentiation, infection, transformation, and host of other possible physiological states. Here we review the role of ER stress in multiple myeloma (MM), an incurable plasma cell neoplasm. MM is closely linked to dysregulated unfolded protein response in the ER due to the heightened production of immunoglobulin and the metabolic demands of malignant uncontrolled proliferation. Together, these forces may mean that myeloma cells have an "Achilles heel" which can be exploited as a treatment target: their ER stress response must be constitutively active at a remarkably high level to survive their unique metabolic needs. Therefore, inhibition of the ER stress response is likely to injure the cells, as is any further demand on an already over-worked system. Evidence for this vulnerability is summarized here, along with an overview of how each of the three ER stress sensors has been implicated in myeloma pathogenesis and treatment.


ER stress; apoptosis; endoplasmic reticulum; multiple myeloma; unfolded protein response

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