It is well established that osteoblast formation and function are profoundly impaired in multiple myeloma (MM) patients. Osteoblastic cells also regulate myeloma cell growth and increasing bone formation result in a reduction of tumoral burden in mice. Recent data suggest that ubiquitin-proteasome pathway, the major cellular degradative system and therapeutic target in myeloma cells, also regulates osteoblast differentiation. Further it has been demonstrated that different proteasome inhibitors may stimulate bone formation in mice. Finally, preliminary observations obtained in MM patients treated with the proteasome inhibitor Bortezomib show an increase of bone specific alkaline phosphatase in responder patients as compared to non-responder ones. Currently it is not know whether the proteasome inhibitor Bortezomib may have a direct effect on osteoblast and bone formation in vitro human cultures and in vivo in MM patients.

To clarify this issue first we checked the effect of Bortezomib either on osteoblast differentiation and formation or on osteoblast proliferation, survival and function. In long-term human BM cultures we found that Bortezomib did not reduce the number of both early bone marrow (BM) osteoblast progenitors Colony Forming Unit-Fibroblast (CFU-F) and late ones Colony Forming Bone nodules (CFU-OB). On the other hand we found that Bortezomib (2–3 nM) significantly induced osteoblast phenotype in human mesenchymal cells incubated in presence of osteogenic factors. A stimulatory effect on osteoblast markers was observed after 24 hours of Bortezomib treatment. Consistently we found that Bortezomib significantly increased the activity of the transcription factor Runx2/Cbfa1 in human osteoblast progenitors without affecting the canonical WNT signaling pathway checked by the evaluation of nuclear and cytoplasmatic active beta-catenin levels. Using the human osteoblast like cells MG-63 and immortalized normal osteoblasts (HOBIT) we found that Bortezomib at concentration ranging between 2nM and 5nM did not inhibit osteoblast proliferation or induce osteoblast apoptosis. Similarly, Bortezomib did not affect the expression of osteoblast markers, Runx2/Cbfa1 activity and WNT signaling in both MG-63 and HOBIT cells.

To extent our in vitro observation we have evaluated the potential effect of Bortezomib in vivo in MM patients. Bone histomorphometry as well as immunostainig for Runx2/Cbfa1 and beta-catenin was performed on BM biopsies obtained from 15 MM patients before and after 6–8 cycles of Bortezomib administrated in mono-therapy. A significant increase in the number of osteoblastic cells X mm2 of bone tissue and in the number of Runx2/Cbfa1 positive osteoblastic cells was observed only in responder patients showing an early increase of the serum alkaline phosphatase.

In conclusion our data indicate that Bortezomib may increase osteoblast differentiation in human mesenchymal cells without affecting the proliferation, survival and function of mature osteoblasts. In vivo and in vitro observations support the hypothesis that both direct and indirect effects on bone formation process could occur during Bortezomib treatment.

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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