Background: IL-6 is important for proliferation and inhibition of apoptosis in malignant plasma cells. Understanding the role of IL-6 receptor alpha chain (CD126) in the pathogenesis of plasma cell disorders may help in developing future treatment therapies for these diseases. A previous study has shown that CD126 (alpha subunit of IL-6 receptor) is expressed distinctly in myeloma, monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS), and plasmacytomas when compared to normal. We performed this study in order to confirm and describe the expression of CD126 in different plasma cell disorders.

Design and Methods: Using flow cytometry we assessed CD126 expression on clonal plasma cells from patients with Primary Amyloidosis (n=7), monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) (n=13), smoldering Myeloma (SMM) (n=19) and active Myeloma (n=22), as well as normal plasma cells (n=9). Plasma cells were identified by their characteristic CD38/45 expression. The expression of CD126 was separately analyzed on the CD45 positive and negative plasma cells. CD 126 expression was considered significant when more than 20% of the cells had expression.

Results: CD126 expression was seen distinctly in plasma cell disorder plasma cells and not in normal plasma cells when all plasma cells were studied together. The highest expression percentages were found in Amyloid (28%) followed closely by MGUS 29(%), then SMM (23%), and Myeloma (12%) cells. The CD45 neg subset was similarly positive in the plasma cell disorder group. In this group, MGUS showed the highest expression percentage followed distantly by Amyloid, Myeloma, and SMM. The CD45 pos subset was uniformly positive in expression of CD126. If was found that this subset expressed higher levels of CD126 in all the studied plasma cell disorders and normal plasma cells when compared to the CD45 neg subset.

Conclusion: The findings of this study confirm the increased expression of CD126 in plasma cell disorders when compared to normal plasma cells. The higher expression of CD126 in the CD45 pos plasma cell subset has not been previously described. In addition, the CD45 pos subset expressed higher levels of CD126 in all study groups when compared to the CD45 pos subset. This data contributes to the understanding of IL-6 receptor physiology and confirms the important role of the CD45 pos subset in the proliferation of neoplastic plasma cells. The findings are in accordance with the increased proliferative rates seen in the CD45 fraction of malignant plasma cells.

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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